Once again, Secret Service agent Mike Banning is having a hard time. Already suffering from PTSD-like symptoms, Banning gets shot, almost drowned, concussed and blown up.
“I just need to rehydrate,” he mutters. Still tough as nails, this guy.
“Angel Has Fallen” is the third film with Gerard Butler as Banning, following “Olympus Has Fallen” (2013), which was basically “Die Hard at the White House,” and “London Has Fallen” (2016).
Both films were pretty dopey, despite the useful action-flick concepts. Speaking of hydration, “London” distinguished itself with a scene where the movie stopped completely to watch Butler drink an entire tumbler of water. For that, I will always be grateful.
Most of the cast of the previous two films has departed, and we have a different actor (Piper Perabo) in the role of Banning’s wife. Returning for duty is Morgan Freeman, previously the House speaker, then vice president.
He’s the POTUS now, which, let’s be honest, is where Morgan Freeman always belonged anyway. An incredibly complicated attack — involving hundreds of guided bat-bombs — leaves a score of Secret Service agents dead, the president comatose, and Mike Banning severely injured.
It gets worse: Banning is framed for the hit. This gives us an excuse for the movie’s best sequence, as Banning escapes a secured vehicle in the middle of a forest.
His fugitive status leads him to the woodland compound of an eccentric coot played by Nick Nolte. In full Unabomber mode, Nolte gives one of his most energetic recent performances.
Aside from these effective sequences, “Angel Has Fallen” sticks to the low road, relying on hackneyed dialogue and the belief that the more ammunition, the better. This might be bearable if it weren’t for the screenplay’s tilt toward mawkishness — you won’t be surprised to learn that it was all “about family” in the end.
The cast includes Danny Huston as Banning’s old comrade in arms (now a Blackwater-style mercenary), a remarkably overqualified Jada Pinkett Smith as a government agent and Tim Blake Nelson as the vice president. Based on casting alone, it’s extremely easy to predict what twists might be coming.
Less easy to predict was that Gerard Butler, generally an enjoyable and easygoing leading man, would be the weak link here. Maybe he appears bloated and unhealthy because of his character’s alleged anxiety, but Butler looks as though he’s been sculpted out of meat and potatoes, without the lumps smoothed out.
The idea that his one-dimensional character is undergoing some kind of post-traumatic anxiety also feels superficial. The previous films got by with the fantasy of Banning as an indestructible superhero. Let’s not start giving him psychology now.
“Angel Has Fallen” (2 stars)
The third movie with Gerard Butler as Secret Service agent Mike Bannon, whose job protecting the President (Morgan Freeman) goes very bad. This humdrum installment relies on hackneyed dialogue and massive amounts of ammunition, although Nick Nolte livens things up for a while.
Rating: R, for violence, language
Opening Friday: Alderwood, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Seattle 10, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor Plaza