n this post-9-11 world a new film genre has emerged. Hollywood has shown recently that it loves fantasising about large-scale terrorist attacks threatening them. London Has Fallen, the Babak Najafi directed sequel to Olympus Has Fallen (2013) is determined to build a franchise. While the action is moved to England’s capital, the story is essentially the same. This marks the first venture into the realm of big-budget Hollywood film for the Swedish director, whose previous works mainly comprise of Swedish language thriller films.
Gerard Butler reprises his role as top Secret Service agent Mike Banning. Unlike the first instalment, it’s not the Koreans that provide our antagonism, but a Pakistani arms dealer named Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul). Capitalising on the fear of remote-controlled warfare, after Barkawi’s compound is located, a drone strike is launched, killing both the terrorist mastermind and his family – or so we think.
Two years later, the stakes are set high. Banning – now contemplating his resignation – is expecting his first child with his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell). Banning’s hope to settle down and start a family is clearly a contrived attempt to add tension to a script totally absent of all suspense. Predictably, meanwhile in Yemen, Barkawi is still alive, and begins plotting his revenge with his surviving son, Kamran (Waleed Zuaiter).
When the British Prime Minister dies, Banning and US president Benjamin Ahser (Aaron Echhart), along with every Head of State (including a somewhat obvious caricature of Silvio Berlusconi) are sent to attend the funeral in London. We spend the next few scenes awaiting the inevitable, jumping every time a car door is slammed shut.
The gun shots start, and world leaders (but not the US President of course) immediately get killed off. The standard action-thriller we were expecting begins. However, the action is unremarkable. Dreary car chases, sub-standard CGI, explosions and stale set pieces almost have the audience reaching for the Xbox controller to play along with this derivative Call of Duty-style shoot em’ up. We are treated to an American tourist’s view of London – we see most of the major landmarks get blown up – in this alternate reality where high ranking members of the British military still chortle as they refer to Americans as ‘yanks’.
While it is obvious this film is calculated to beguile an audience expecting a superficial popcorn thriller, there is something more sinister at its heart. As we see Gerard Butler slowly sink a knife into a screaming terrorist time and time again – at one point twisting the blade while holding a walkie-talkie to their mouth so his comrades can hear him scream – this formulaic action film becomes something altogether more vulgar. We are expected to cheer along our muscled warrior as he tortures his foes, but the film verges on propaganda – some form of ISIS revenge pornography – often entering the realm of xenophobia. The film conveniently side-steps the issue of Islamic extremism, not wanting to appear too intolerant, instead focusing on a generic shady arms dealer, the tired stereotype of the dark skinned desert-dwelling baddie. Aboutboul attempts to portray our villain as a cold, soft-spoken maniac, but instead just comes across as bland, and in fact much less psychotic than our hero.
Not a hint of tension is provided throughout, all the jeopardy seems forced and artificial, and the few twists are predictable. We are presented with an insipid, hackneyed text so formulaic it would verge on parody, had that been its intention. The clichés are fired off like machine gun bullets, providing us with a third-rate, recycled 90's action film that would be totally forgettable, if it were not so offensive.