[su_dropcap size=”5″]”T[/su_dropcap]here’s been an assassination attempt on President Trumbull’s life,” a breathless reporter tells us during Angel Has Fallen. As opposed to what, an assassination attempt on his gerbils? That’s the kind of lunkheaded dialogue you hear throughout this movie. Characters say and do dumb things over and over, until the whole thing grows exhausting. A leaden script sinks a charismatic cast, while frantic, incoherent action scenes rob the movie of any real tension. In the end, the only things in real danger of falling were my eyelids.
This movie doesn’t so much hit all the clichés as it slams into them like a Hyundai full of crash dummies. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s tick ’em off: In this third Fallen entry (after Olympus and London), Secret Service super-agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is our requisite Hero with Personal Demons. Stricken with migraines and hooked on pain pills, Banning struggles with whether or not to accept a desk job that will force him from a lifetime of whoopin’ ass and striking cool action hero poses. Leah (Piper Perabo) is the Nagging Wife who exists to either be a buzz kill or fall into grave danger and be rescued. Danny Huston plays Wade Jennings, the Old Army Buddy Without a War, a man who’s so effortlessly charming, you gotta figure he’s probably evil. Jada Pinkett Smith’s FBI agent spends her time either staring at computer screens or shouting random character names. (“Johnson! Martinez! You’re with me!”) TL,DR: There ain’t a person in this movie that doesn’t seem like they were built out of a kit.
Anyway, Morgan Freeman’s Allan Trumbull is now President of the United States. Eager to escape the chicanery around him in Washington, Trumbull retreats for a fishing trip, with Banning by his side. The two men share a moment of real talk that is, predictably, interrupted by an assassination attempt (on his life, dun dun DUNNNN). The would-be assassins send a swarm of drones swirling in the air before diving into the president and his protection like kamikazes. It’s a scene with undertones of Hitchcock’s The Birds. Except, you know, it sucks.
Banning and Trumbull are the only survivors, probably because they’re the most expensive actors in the film. Trumbull falls in one of those movie comas, where he’ll be out cold until the plot needs him awake. Meanwhile, Banning finds himself under heavy scrutiny from his colleagues. Turns out, they have quickly amassed an orgy of evidence that ties him to the assassination. The way the agents instantly buy into this frame job is one of the dumbest things in a movie that already spends two hours engaged in slobbery mouth-breathing.
So, Banning has to bust out of custody and take it on the lam. He eludes the Feds and a squad of bearded mercenaries, all while trying to prove his innocence. Along the way, he reconnects with his scraggly dad (Nick Nolte, looking a lot like Uncle Jesse from Dukes of Hazzard) at a Unabomber-style cabin. Meanwhile, Banning uncovers evidence that the attack may have been an inside job and possible coup-de-tat by high-ranking…ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…
Shit, my bad. I dozed off there. Yeah, so everything builds to the expected gun battle. The only problem is that the good guys and bad guys dress in the same SWAT gear and fight with the same style. Director Ric Roman Waugh doesn’t help this with his jerky, Bourne-style camera work and lightning-fast cuts. I couldn’t really tell what was going on, but I really didn’t care all that much. My main interest was for this teacup ride to come to a stop before I barfed up my Skittles.
None of this jumbled tomfoolery is the fault of the actors. Butler is just fine as the Sensitive Hunk, and Morgan Freeman is reliable as the Leader with Gravitas. As the conniving Vice President, Tim Blake Nelson infuses his performance with more serpentine mischief than the role probably deserves. Angel has a talented cast, but they deserve a better script. At one point, Wade sizes up Agent Thompson with seething contempt: “She’s the reason we fight wars with one hand tied to our dicks!” That’s an exceptionally stupid line, but it also raises a provocative point: Someday, I hope we can all live in a world without war. More specifically, I pray we can avoid any war where men are sent into battle with their hands on their wieners. It’s a dream, but I know we have the power to make it a reality.
121 min. R.