This franchise panders to action fans who revel in violent far-fetched nonsense, making no apologies for its cheap thrills and explosive gratuity. Where certain cinephiles will dismiss it as trash, others will celebrate its sense of frivolity. Being a sucker for brainless action myself, I definitely fit within its target demographic.
With a significantly smaller budget of $40-million (compared to London's $60-million and Olympus' $70-mill) ANGEL HAS FALLEN's restraints are immediately evident. There is a definite modesty to the new instalment with the big action centrepieces being replaced by a formulaic man-on-the-run synopsis. To counteract the budget cut, Butler's character is written to be a burned-out father whose age and weariness threatens to end his career. He is no longer the actioneer we once knew, and his newly appointed fugitive status allows him to avoid massive fight sequences and high-concept action... for the most part. Of course there IS plenty of action to keep 'em keen, but to a lesser degree.
Some other consequences of the smaller budget include a few poorly executed green screen moments and a dependancy on poor dramatic character arcs, however, with a cache of nifty Bond-esque tropes the film manages to tread water without sinking. A cool drone attack early into the story sets the tone of the film and, while this sequence is admittedly ludicrous, it preps the viewer for a new direction to the series.
Butler is a seasoned pro when it comes to this brand of conservative-leaning action and he relishes every punch with absolute glee. Despite his age affecting his physical limits, he gives all that he's got to make Mike Banning a bonafide action-movie legend. Freeman, who is now 82-years old, returns to the series as the POTUS, replacing Aaron Eckhart from the previous instalments. Whether or not Eckhart was invited back, his absence plays to the movie's strength as Freeman offers greater depth and humanity. Although clearly an old man, Freeman's capabilities on screen are no barrier for his commitment to physicality and sincerity.
New additions to the cast include Danny Houston as Mike's former ranger teammate and owner of a private military contractor, and Nick Nolte as his estranged forrest-dwelling hermit father. Both are welcome newcomers to the series with each of them serving the story with an abundance of cliches and obvious tropes. Jada Pinkett Smith also co-stars as the FBI manhunter hot on the trail of Banning. They are all about as conventional and predictable as it gets... but intentionally so.
When it comes to this brand of movie we expect a good time but not a whole lot of substance or integrity. It is easily the lesser of the three films in terms of quality and bravado, but it's probably the most fun of the lot as far as I'm concerned. There's been three years between each instalment since the first movie arrived in 2013 and whether or not we can expect another one in 2022 remains to be seen. With Banning's body giving up on him, perhaps we'll enter the cyber-bionic phase... or maybe he'll call the shots from mission control... it's a stupid series and anything's possible. Fans of Olympus and London Has Fallen need only apply.