Now on Netflix: London Has Fallen
When Olympus Has Fallen, an instantly forgettable 2013 blaze of violence and machismo, was on Netflix several months ago, I checked it out on one of those nights I was home by myself and had nothing better to do. I remember about five minutes of it. The over-the-top story was about disgraced Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) saving the President (Aaron Eckhart) from a brutal hostile takeover at the hands of North Korean terrorists. It was okay for what it was, I guess.
It neither needed nor warranted a sequel, but apparently it made enough money for the franchise gods to bestow (afflict?) us with a second installment, London Has Fallen. In London Has Fallen, newly reformed Secret Service Agent Mike Banning saves the President from a brutal hostile takeover at the hands of Pakistani terrorists. Said attacks happen this time in - you guessed it - London, where world leaders have gathered to attend the funeral for the Prime Minister of Britain.
But where Olympus Has Fallen was dumb, London Has Fallen is downright reprehensible. Its overly simplistic plot is ludicrous at best and morally bankrupt at worst. To put it in relevant terms: it's the cinematic equivalent of Jimmy Fallon ruffling Trump's hair on national television. It's misogynistic (Banning jokes about naming his unborn child after the President only if it's a girl), homophobic (Banning jokes about wondering when the President was going to "come out of the closet" after the President is stashed in an actual closet), and xenophobic (Banning delivers an insipid, expletive-laden final speech as he wales on the main antagonist that defines the concept of "othering"). Then to top it all off, It gleefully delights in the mass execution of an entire group of people.
The same day I watched London Has Fallen, in fact at the very same time that it was safely streaming in my apartment in Brooklyn, a pressure-cooker bomb went off in a neighborhood in Chelsea, less than five miles away. Twenty-nine people were wounded. Details are still forthcoming, but incidents like this remind me that matters of national security and global terrorism are ridiculously complicated and vexed. Movies like London Has Fallen, with its reduction of such matters to the most elemental, kill-or-be-killed mentality, are the problem far more than they are the solution.
Skip this one. Rent Zero Dark Thirty instead.