Angel Has Fallen review

For inSing

ANGEL HAS FALLEN

Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Cast : Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Danny Huston, Michael Landes, Tim Blake Nelson, Nick Nolte, Piper Perabo, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lance Reddick
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 2 h 1 mins
Opens : 22 August 2019
Rating : NC16

He saved the White House, he saved London, and now, Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) must save himself.

An assassination attempt on President Alan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) leaves his entire Secret Service detail dead – except Banning. Banning is framed for the attack and goes on the run, leaving his wife Leah (Piper Perabo) and their baby daughter in danger. Pursued by Secret Service director David Gentry (Lance Reddick) and FBI Special Agent Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith), Banning turns to an unlikely source for help: his estranged father Clay (Nick Nolte). Banning must clear his name and uncover the conspiracy, before the attacker can finish what they’ve started.

Part of the charm of the Fallen film series is its throwback nature. These are resolutely 90s action movies of the ‘seen it all before’ variety, but perhaps offer a change of pace from the typical mega-blockbuster. Angel Has Fallen is more serious and subdued than the bloated, preposterous and jingoistic London Has Fallen, but that’s not to say it’s anywhere in the realm of plausibility. There are still far-fetched elements to the plot and bombastic action sequences, but there’s a bit more character stuff stuck in between this time. Early information about the film’s plot suggested it would be about a terrorist attack on Air Force One, which was the plot of, uh, Air Force One. Thankfully, while Angel Has Fallen is far from original, it isn’t a rip-off of Air Force One.

True to form as a 90s throwback, Angel Has Fallen is reminiscent of The Fugitive and its spinoff U.S. Marshals. It’s easy to imagine Harrison Ford in the Mike Banning role at some point. Under the direction of former stuntman Ric Roman Waugh, Angel Has Fallen is unsophisticated but muscular. There are lots of old-fashioned action set-pieces, including a jack-knifing semi-truck that flips over. There are also countless explosions that toss hapless henchmen in the air. The action is largely tactile, and Angel Has Fallen largely avoids the clumsy and obvious CGI of its predecessors.

Gerard Butler was certainly overselling the movie when he compared it to Logan in an interview, but to a certain extent, the comparison makes sense. In this film, we see Banning struggle with the physical trauma he has weathered being in the line of fire, having developed an addiction to painkillers. This by no means compromises his ability to be a nigh-superhuman badass in combat, but it’s good to see the film acknowledging its protagonist’s pain.

Morgan Freeman gets more to do than in the previous two movies, during which he was largely confined to the situation room. Here, he is largely confined to a hospital room, but brings the authority and warmth expected of him. 21 years after Deep Impact, he’s presidential as ever.

This is one of those movies in which it’s incredibly obvious who the bad guys are the moment they first appear onscreen. It seems obvious to the point where one would think they must be red herrings, but no, those characters you suspected are indeed the villains.

Nick Nolte adds a great deal of personality as Mike’s dad, giving this movie shades of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Nolte can play crusty and cantankerous in his sleep, but also mines some tragedy from the character and provides the movie with its few authentic beats.

The Leah Banning character gets little to do, but then again, she’s always gotten little to do, to the point where one would be forgiven for not noticing that Radha Mitchell has been replaced by Piper Perabo.

Jada Pinkett Smith’s FBI Agent character is unremarkable, and she seems to over-act to compensate for how purely functional the character is in the plot.

Angel Has Fallen is not an especially smart film, but it offers modest thrills in a relatively entertaining package. Butler gets the job done even though he looks tired and out of it, and the story offers a reason for why he looks tired and out of it. There’s still a place for movies like Angel Has Fallen, with its gunfights, explosions and easily solved plots against the president.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

The Trials of Cate McCall

For F*** Magazine

THE TRIALS OF CATE MCCALL 

Director : Karen Moncrieff
Cast : Kate Beckinsale, Nick Nolte, James Cromwell, David Lyons, Clancy Brown, Mark Pellegrino, Taye Diggs, Isaiah Washington, Dale Dickey, Kathy Baker
Genre : Drama
Opens : 19 June 2014
Rating : NC16 – Some Coarse Language / 93 mins
It’s a case of the almost-Danza with Kate as Cate. Beckinsale plays Cate McCall, a high-flying L.A. legal eagle whose promising career is threatened by alcoholism and a custody battle, ex-husband Josh (Lyons) planning on moving to Seattle with their young daughter Augie (Ava Kolker). Cate is assigned to defend Lacey Stubbs (Anissimova), a young woman put on death row who claims that she was wrongly accused of first degree murder. With her Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor Bridges (Nolte) by her side, Cate takes on what many deem an impossible case. Among the obstacles that stand in her way are possibly-crooked police detective Welch (Pellegrino), womanising judge Sumpter (Cromwell), a man she prosecuted and who was proven innocent and released from jail (Washington) plus the army of protestors camped outside the courthouse, convinced of Lacey’s guilt.


            The thought running through this reviewer’s mind for the duration of this film was “gee, this looks like it belongs on TV”. It turns out that The Trials of Cate McCall was not granted a U.S. or U.K. theatrical run, bypassing a video release and airing on the Lifetime Channel as a movie of the week, a death knell if ever there was one. As a courtroom drama, The Trials of Cate McCall is pretty much par for the course, offering nothing one wouldn’t find in any law procedural television show. The central mystery is moderately interesting rather than downright riveting; several plot developments questionable if not preposterous. More than a handful of artistic license is taken and law students will be crying “objection!” but for the layperson, it all makes just enough sense.


            In some circles, Kate Beckinsale is thought of as merely a pretty face and little else, but the truth is that she is a capable actress and makes for a believable lawyer here, somewhat reminiscent of her turn in the under-seen Nothing but the Truth. She projects confidence and brokenness equally well and makes the title character into someone the audience does very much want to see succeed. We see Cate dishevelled and crying but also taking control of the courtroom and it’s certainly not a bad performance from Beckinsale. Nick Nolte has pretty much been out of it for the last 20 years but still has gotten steady work as a dependable supporting player and, as his Academy Award nomination for Warrior proves, can still do good work. Not too much is required of him in The Trials of Cate McCall but he’s got the “gruff but kind” mentor figure thing down pat. James Cromwell makes full use of his hawkish mien as Justice Sumpter; he may be best remembered for playing a kindly farmer in Babe but prepare to throw up in your mouth a little when he pervs on Kate Beckinsale. Who’s the pig now?

            The Trials of Cate McCall features a capable Kate Beckinsale leading the charge but it really is nothing that hasn’t been done before, rote rather than sensational. The need for an emotional subplot involving Cate’s inability to connect with her young daughter is there to show how Cate struggles with her demanding job and with being a mother (hence the plural “trials” in the title), but it seems unnecessary at times. Writer-director Karen Moncrieff, like her lead actress, is competent, but every so often we get lines like “I’m f**king good at what I do and I intend to win this!” It’s bland, but not quite as ham-fisted a mess as it could’ve been.
Summary:  Kate Beckinsale is a strong lead and the supporting cast of somewhat-familiar faces backs her up well, but that’s not enough to pull this also-rans courtroom drama up from the doldrums.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
Jedd Jong