London Has Fallen

For F*** Magazine

LONDON HAS FALLEN

Director : Babak Najafi
Cast : Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Charlotte Riley, Morgan Freeman, Robert Forster, Melissa Leo, Alon Moni Aboutboul, Angela Bassett, Radha Mitchell
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 99 mins
Opens : 3 March 2016
Rating : NC-16 (Violence And Some Coarse Language)

The city of London: between being decimated by a tungsten rod fired from orbit in G.I. Joe: Retaliation and having Dubai’s Burj Khalifa plonked down on it by aliens in the upcoming Independence Day: Resurgence, it seems Hollywood’s been saying “screw Britannia!” Another round of U.K. landmark destruction is preceded by the untimely death of the British Prime Minister. World leaders, including U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart), arrive for the state funeral. In the lead-up to the funeral, a brutal, intricately-planned terrorist attack cripples London, and Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Butler) is the only thing keeping Asher alive. Back in Washington D.C., Vice President Alan Trumbull (Freeman) receives a video message from terrorist mastermind Aamir Barkawi (Aboutboul), claiming responsibility for the attacks. Asher and Banning have to rendezvous with MI6 agent Jacquelin Marshal (Riley) as the chaos escalates and terrorists overrun London.

            London Has Fallenis the sequel to Olympus Has Fallen, a film that was generally regarded as taking itself way too seriously, hilariously jingoistic, containing slipshod visual effects work but boasting a decent amount of brutal action. London Has Fallen contains all those traits and kicks them up to 11. There’s an increased sense of scale and the location shooting in London itself means the production values here are an improvement on those of its predecessor. However, in scenes including the destruction of Chelsea Bridge and a sequence in which the presidential helicopters Marines One, Two and Three are evading terrorists’ rockets, the visual effects work is nigh laughable.  
The over-the-top bombast is supposed to be thrilling, but there will be many audiences who will have a difficult time deriving entertainment from seeing terrorists blow up a city, particularly given the tragic frequency with which such incidents occur in real life. Paris, Beirut, Tunis, Istanbul, San Bernadino and Jakarta amongst others were all recently attacked and furthermore, the trailer for London Has Fallen was released during the week of the tenth anniversary of the 2005 7/7 London bombings. We don’t mean to get all self-righteous and this reviewer is a big action movie junkie, but the way London Has Fallen presents itself as topical while revelling in dated action movie tropes, with a one-man army stabbing bad guys and dispensing one-liners, is a little uncomfortable.

It’s pretty funny that this flag-waving, chest-thumping celebration of American jingoism is directed by a Swedish director of Iranian descent and stars an actor who is completely incapable of disguising his unmistakably Scottish brogue. As far as London Has Fallenis concerned, all world leaders are entirely expendable – ersatz versions of Angela Merkel, Silvio Berlusconi and François Hollande bite the dust in quick succession – all except for the American president, of course. The primary villain, a Middle-Eastern arms dealer, seems like a C-grade reject from the TV series Homeland. And yes, drone strikes are a plot point, because total predictability is the name of the game here. At the very least, the villainous scheme is an order of magnitude more plausible than that of the North Korean baddies in Olympus Has Fallen, though that’s still not saying much.
Butler and Eckhart lead a good number of actors who reprise their roles from Olympus Has Fallen. Sure, Butler is completely unbelievable as an American, but he and Eckhart develop a watchable buddy chemistry and Butler’s rough-around-the-edges quality makes him easier to buy as an old-school action hero than other actors out there. Many attempts at badass quips simply come off as silly, but the guy looks like he knows what he’s doing when he’s firing a gun. Bassett isn’t in much of the film and Freeman, Forster and Leo simply sit around the Situation Room back at the White House; their scenes looking like they were all filmed in one day. Jackie Earle Haley as the White House Deputy Chief of Staff is puzzling casting, since the actor isn’t allowed to display any of the quirky energy he’s known for. Riley’s MI6 agent could’ve been a scene stealing character, but God forbid anyone other than Butler kick a significant amount of ass.

Is London Has Fallen enjoyable at all? Yes. It’s fun to guffaw at the clunky lines of dialogue, to appreciate some of the action sequences for being well-executed and others for looking hilariously phony and to pretend that it’s still the 80s-90s, cheering on the clench-jawed hero who charges in guns a-blazing. The clichés are so on-the-nose – for example, Banning’s wife Leah (Mitchell) is pregnant with their first child, pining for the safe return of her husband – it’s impossible to assume the filmmakers didn’t go into this with at least the slightest modicum of self-awareness. Most of all, it’s enjoyable in its thunderous stupidity and those 99 minutes go by fairly quickly.


Summary: This action thriller is often breathtakingly dumb and the “terrorist attacks in the name of entertainment” angle is problematic in this day and age, but the sheer lack of subtlety is enjoyable in its own right. U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!

RATING: 2.5out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong 

The Equalizer

For F*** Magazine

THE EQUALIZER

Director : Antoine Fuqua
Cast : Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, Haley Bennett, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Johnny Skortis
Genre : Crime/Thriller
Opens : 25 September 2014
Rating : M18 (Violence and Coarse Language) 
Running time: 132 mins
Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer. Robert McCall (Washington) is a former Special Forces operative who has forged a new, quiet life as an unassuming worker at the Home Mart. During his regular stops at a diner after work, he meets underage prostitute Alina, working under the name “Teri” (Moretz), and is moved by her plight to take on the Russian gangster pimps she is forced to work for. McCall’s actions attract the attention of Spetsnaz-trained Russian Mafia enforcer Nicolai, who goes by “Teddy”. Teddy’s innocuous nickname belies his cold, psychopathic nature. Teddy and his men begin relentlessly pursuing McCall, but little do they know that they’re dealing with a bona fide one man army. 

            The Equalizer is based on the 80s TV show starring Edward Woodward and re-teams Denzel Washington with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua. One thing is abundantly clear after watching The Equalizer: Fuqua knows how to make Washington look very cool. Washington’s Robert McCall is a stone-cold badass, collected, unflappable and supremely deadly. This is a guy who sets a stopwatch to time his fights to make sure he’s still got it. The graphically violent efficiency with which he dispatches his opponents stands in contrast with how nurturing a mentor figure he is to his co-workers at the Home Mart. A subplot has him helping the overweight Ralphie (Skortis) get into shape so he can pass the security guard test. This is the same guy who streamlines the Russian Mafia’s payroll with the help of guns, hedge trimmers, barb wire, nail guns, canisters of oxygen in the microwave and of course his own bare hands. All that’s missing from scenes in which Washington performs that “cool guys don’t look at explosions” strut is a choir in the background singing “he’s a badass! He’s a badass!” to the tune of “Gonna Fly Now”.

            Here’s the problem – as assuredly-directed as it all is, one can’t help but feel that The Equalizer’s protagonist is a nigh-invincible superhuman who is never really in any palpable danger from the film’s villains. He’s cool, sure, but he’s far from a unique, memorable action hero. There are no depths for Washington to plumb here, even given how the character is supposed to come off as sage-like in addition to tough. What helps mitigate this somewhat is Marton Csokas’ turn as the villain. The bad guys in this movie are old-school – evil and uncomplicated. Csokas is a charismatic, commanding presence without going overboard with the scenery chewing or affecting too-ridiculous an accent. A scene in which Teddy confronts another prostitute about Teri’s whereabouts is chillingly played. Chloë Moretz isn’t in this as much as the trailers would lead one to believe but her portrayal of shattered innocence and world-weariness is pretty moving, recalling Jodie Foster’s turn in Taxi Driver.


            The Equalizer is stylish and atmospheric, reminding this reviewer of Jack Reacher. Before he strikes, McCall sizes up and analyses each of his opponents, shown in the form of a dramatic Sherlock Holmes-style breakdown. There is very little in the way of shaky-cam and hyper-kinetic editing, allowing the mood and suspense to sink it. The action does get rather grisly, so if you’re squeamish about sharp implements, be forewarned. The Equalizer looks polished but it isn’t sophisticated, and this won’t lead to a Best Actor Oscar for Washington like his earlier collaboration with Fuqua did. But we get Denzel Washington going all lone-wolf guardian avenger in a slightly different mode from in Man on Fire, and we can’t complain about that.


Summary: It’s formulaic, but with action sequences that are equal parts slick and visceral and a cooler-than-cool lead performance from Denzel Washington, The Equalizeroffers up a decent amount of genre thrills.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong