“ANGEL HAS FALLEN” — 2 1⁄2 stars — Gerard Butler, Piper Perabo, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Danny Huston; R (violence and language throughout); in general release; running time: 120 minutes
Ric Roman Waugh’s movie is the third one built around the adventures of Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). In the first two films, Banning fought off kidnappers and international terrorists. This time, he’s framed for a killing attempt on the president of the United States.
In “Angel Has Fallen”, Morgan Freeman as President Trumbull and Gerald Butler as Mike Banning.
When the film starts, life for Banning seems pretty steady. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his young family, and he’s next in line to be director of the Secret Service. It’s a good time to sit back with old war buddies like government contractor Wade Jennings (Danny Huston) and talk about the desk jobs that wait for them.
But all those years of hard knocks have taken a physical toll, and Banning is struggling with persistent migraine headaches and giddiness. This makes things more difficult for Banning when, during a routine fishing holiday with President Allan Trumbull, a killing attempt wipes out Banning’s entire team and leaves the president in a coma.
Things just get worse from there. Evidence at the scene marks banning as the offender, even though he’s the only reason President Trumbull stay alive the hit in the first place. A determined FBI agent (Jada Pinkett Smith) is convinced Banning is guilty, and even more so after an armed team frees the agent from custody and whisks him off into the night.
Jada Pinkett Smith stars as Agent Thompson in “Angel Has Fallen.”
Waugh’s film starts off well enough, but as things move along, “Angel Has Fallen” settles into a low-rent echo of 1993’s “The Fugitive,” as Banning has to alongside prove his innocence and take out the real bad guy, all while under hot chase from the FBI.
So who is really behind all of this plotting? It’s pretty obvious, if only because the linear story doesn’t give you many options to choose from. “Angel Has Fallen’s” script — credited to a trio of screenwriters (never a good sign) — is full of unsatisfactory and expectable moves that make the final product into a kind of action movie paint-by-number exercise. And without any real depth or motivation behind any of the main characters, there’s just no reason for the audience to get participated.
The action sequences are functional, and there are plenty of fisticuffs and gunplay and empty calories to go around. There’s intensity, but no “wow.” Butler is serviceable as the lead, but the most charismatic actor in the cast spends most of the movie in a coma. You never get the sense that anyone is really having any fun, and it feels like about half the dialogue is Banning and his cohorts cursing in reaction to what is happening around them.
Gerald Butler stars as Mike Banning in “Angel Has Fallen.”
Overall, “Angel Has Fallen” is pretty much late August personified. A Happy Meal might tide you over, but deep down you know you deserve better.
Rating explained: “Angel Has Fallen” draws an R rating for consistent profanity and scenes of graphic — but not super graphic — action violence.