I love a good, dumb action film. This is not to be confused with a good action film. A good action film is something like “The Raid”—a movie superbly filmed and perfectly choreographed, with action stars at the top of their game. All cylinders are firing, as the finely tuned kinetic filmmaking is pulled with the timing and epic scope of a perfectly conducted symphony.
A good, dumb action film is something entirely different, often a cliché-filled piece of tasty trash that relishes in the pile of garbage from which it was birthed. It’s a shameless piece of cinema where the cast, crew and director proudly look to the camera and declare, “Fuck you! It’s an action movie.” This perfectly describes “London Has Fallen.”
It is a quintessential dumb action movie—a rushed-through, 90-minute flick that wears the word “insulting” like a badge of honor. Gerard Butler is back in the sequel to the equally worthwhile waste that was “Olympus Has Fallen.” These are the kind of movies that made Chuck Norris famous and could easily be emblazoned with a Cannon Films logo. Butler plays Mike, the world’s most awesome secret service agent. He’s tasked with protecting the president (Aaron Eckhart) who heads to London for the funeral of the British Prime Minister. Everything’s going fine until—uh oh!—terrorists show up and decide a funeral is the perfect place to wipe out the leaders of the western world. An evil army of mercenaries and jihadists turn London into a smoking crater. The only thing that stands between the complete decimation of the civilized world is Gerard Butler.
After Butler saves the president from the first wave of attacks, he realizes there is no exit strategy, as every route is littered with filthy terrorist scum. They are stranded in London, and have to try and escape before they are captured and killed. It’s a pretty standard plot. In fact, it’s remarkably similar to the original, which should surprise absolutely no one.
Dumb action movies can’t be bothered with things like originality. They’re about explosions, relentless gunfire, and nonsensical twists and turns that keep the story moving forward at breakneck speed. This is one reason I’m so mercilessly forgiving of something like “London Has Fallen”: It knows exactly what kind of movie it is and refuses to spend any time slowing down. Everything moves briskly, only pausing to allow our hero to shout out instructions or growl out a reaction.
Butler is an awkward leading man. He’s this generation’s Jean-Claude Van Damme; he stars in really dumb action movies and is incapable of hiding his accent. Butler’s version of an American accent is one of the more amusing attempts at “acting” I’ve seen. Still, as an action star, he’s perfectly perfunctory. He spews out one-liners that made me chuckle. He also effectively puts the “mellow” in melodrama.
There’s a bit at the end when Butler is facing down the film’s villain that is a masterpiece of dumb action. This monologue about the strength of America is only rivaled by Rocky Balboa’s speech at the end of “Rocky IV.” I was practically rolling in the aisle as Butler vomits out a wonderfully jingoistic piece of propaganda while trying his best to subdue a thick Scottish accent (and this is why God created the dumb action movie!).
There are people who will hate “London Has Fallen,” and they have every right to. This is not a good movie. This is the product of garbage rotting, liquefying, and transforming into a melange of super-garbage that lines the bottom of a poorly maintained dumpster. Yet, I find it fascinating and entertaining because of how proudly the pile of swill and sweepings is displayed. There are a number of great actors proudly chewing scenery—like Morgan Freeman, who shows up to bring weight and gravitas to his thinly written character.
“London Has Fallen” is a pungent piece of dumb action. It’s 80 percent extended action sequence and 20 percent pure cheese. Still, I left the theater with a smile on my face. Sure, I smelled like festering trash, but I was smiling.