Angel Has Fallen

Angel Has Fallen knows what it is and doesn't pretend to be anything else. This sequel to Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen is an unapologetically old-school, patriotic, “wrong man accused” action picture. On that level, it works reasonably well. There's nothing here that hasn't been done a million times before (aside, perhaps, from the event that puts the plot in motion) but if you're in the mood for two straight hours of shootouts and explosions, the movie gives you plenty of literal bang for your buck.

Gerard Butler returns as Mike Banning. He's considering an offer from President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) to become the director of the Secret Service. Actually, he's thinking of turning it down. He simply likes on-the-ground action too much. During a fishing trip, Trumbull is attacked by a fleet of drones, which wipe out his entire protection team, aside from Banning. Both men are knocked unconscious, and when Banning awakens in the hospital, he is immediately arrested for attempted murder. FBI agent Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith) seemingly has evidence to suggest that he planned the entire attack.

Banning, of course, knows he's innocent, so he goes on the run to clear his name. One of the two villains is given away in the film's trailer, and the other is someone any alert viewer will easily guess. Angel Has Fallen scores no points in the originality department on that count. At least it has Nick Nolte as Banning's estranged, war-traumatized father Clay, a stock character the actor brings wonderfully to life.

Angel Has Fallen never goes more than a couple of minutes without a major action sequence. Director Ric Roman Waugh stages them impressively. The drone attack is especially eerie, while a third-act assault on a hospital effectively conveys the sense of panic when violence breaks out in a crowded place. These scenes aren't necessarily realistic all the time. Clay's booby-trapped forest hideaway, for example, stretches credibility a bit. Nevertheless, you go to a picture like this for non-stop action, and that's exactly what you get. Growing restless is never an option because something is always happening.

It's in the story that Angel falters more. The bad guys are obvious, and their plan, if you think about it too much, doesn't particularly hold up to logic. Strained father-son relationships like the one between Banning and Clay have been done countless times onscreen. No real mystery exists as to whether Banning will be able to clear his name. And, of course, his wife Leah (Piper Perabo) has nothing to do except express worry about what's happening to her husband.

The key here is that the actors approach the material with enthusiasm. Even though the plot is formulaic, they give everything they have. Butler hits a good balance of tough and charming, Freeman brings his trademark stoicism, and Pinkett Smith nicely plays against type. As for Nolte, he steals every scene he's in, playing a familiar character with such endearing crankiness that we can't help but love him. Whenever he comes on, the movie instantly gets better.

Angel Has Fallen doesn't promise the world. It only promises 121 minutes of hardcore action, intermittently leavened by a moment of humor. That promise is kept. Dozens of better action movies of this sort have been made over the years. Dozens that are worse have, too. This one falls squarely in the middle. You probably won't be blown away, although you definitely won't be bored, either.

out of four

Angel Has Fallen is rated R for violence and language throughout. The running time is 2 hours and 1 minute.