Movie audiences faced an unusual situation back in 2013: They had a choice between two different action films that both depicted the White House being taken over by bad guys. It was "White House Down" with Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx vs. "Olympus Has Fallen," starring Gerard Butler as a heroic Secret Service agent.
The latter proved to be the bigger moneymaker, thanks to a much smaller budget and some wild action scenes by director Antoine Fuqua. Butler reprised his role in 2016 as agent Mike Banning in the sequel, "London Has Fallen," which featured great locations and more impressive action but suffered from a hard-to-buy storyline. The movie still managed to be another solid money-maker, which led to franchise status with this third release, "Angel Has Fallen."
Former stuntman-turned-director Ric Roman Waugh ("Shot Caller") starts off this latest installment with a surprisingly mundane tactical sequence that has Banning hunting adversaries inside a building. It concludes with our leading man unleashing a barrage of unnecessary F-bombs that earns the film an R-rating within the first five minutes. Character-wise, it seems an undisciplined move for someone who is supposed to be a highly-disciplined security agent.
As the story moves forward, we find out Banning is battling the mental/physical scars from his previous adventures and is hesitant to accept the offered new position as head of the Secret Service. One man who wants him to take the job is the new president -- the returning Morgan Freeman, who played the speaker of the House and vice president in the previous films. Freeman doesn't have a lot of screen time but does take part in probably the best scene in the movie: an attack by a swarm of weaponized drones on the president as he and his Secret Service detail enjoy a fishing trip. That sequence is impressive, scary and well-executed.
After that, the film becomes very run-of-the-mill as Banning is suspected of orchestrating the assassination attempt and becomes a man on the run. (Think "The Fugitive," but not done nearly as well. Gerard Butler is not quite the leading man that Harrison Ford is.)
As for the supporting cast, it's fairly ho-hum. Jada Pinkett Smith plays a stern FBI agent who does little more than bark a steady stream of impatient orders to her underlings while Danny Huston plays the most generic of bad guys. The one standout is the unexpected appearance of Nick Nolte halfway into the film. The veteran actor injects some needed emotional and comic elements into the movie.
The script by director Waugh, Robert Mark Kamen ("Karate Kid") and Matt Cook ("Patriots Day") rarely rises above predictable, and even the twists are no big surprise.
The first two movies had the benefit of great backdrops: the White House and the city of London. "Angel Has Fallen" has a lot of forests and nondescript buildings. (Most of the film was shot in the UK and Bulgaria doubling as the U.S.)
One particular annoyance are the multiple shots where the people on camera go in and out of focus as they move around. It's distracting and seems amateurish for a major film.
It's not that "Angel Has Fallen" is a horrible movie. It's just so very, "Been there, done that." It makes for a very unmemorable experience.
2 stars out of 5