It's been a brutal summer for many franchises. Be it critically, commercially, and in many cases both, quite a few of the popcorn flicks that were meant to deliver the goods simply couldn't hang in summer 2019. As we enter the final weeks of the season, we're treated to one final franchise entry in the form of Angel Has Fallen, which follows Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen, with Gerard Butler returning as Secret Service agent Mike Banning. As third entries in mid-level action franchises go, it's something of a nice little late summer surprise.
In Angel Has Fallen Secret Service agent Mike Banning is arrested after an assassination attempt on President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) is pinned on him. Banning manages to escape custody, but he's then locked in a game of cat and mouse with the FBI and the Secret Service as the most wanted man in the nation. Desperate to uncover the truth and clear his name, our hero turns to some unlikely allies to help him bring those who did this to justice and to save the country from a major threat.
Part of what happens with franchises like this is they can't seem to break formula. They get stuck in a rut. London Has Fallen and Olympus Has Fallen certainly followed a formula. Angel Has Fallen, meanwhile, totally breaks the mold set by the previous two entries. Mike Banning's character shows a lot of growth and struggle. Instead of a hero simply needing to save the day, it's a hero on the run. It's not just bad guys terrorizing a single location up against a one man army. This feels like a wholly different and fresh entry and doesn't suffer the same fate as movies like Taken 3.
Granted, there is still a ceiling for a movie like this. It's not John Wick. It doesn't shatter the ceiling. Yet, it is, for my money, highly entertaining, balances humor with very solid action and, believe it or not, manages to be emotionally impactful and has something to say as well. What more could one possibly ask for from a mid-budget action flick starring Gerard Butler? On that note, it's easy, at times, to give a guy like Butler flack. He can go off the rails (Den of Thieves), amusing as that may be. Here, we're reminded that Butler absolutely commits every single time he's in a movie and, this time, it works out pretty well. Butler is clearly in his comfort zone.
Gerard Butler doesn't do it alone. This entry has by far the best supporting cast of the three movies, with an ensemble that includes great character actors such as Danny Huston and Tim Blake Nelson, with returning members such as Morgan Freeman, Lance Reddick and Piper Perabo delivering the goods as well. However, it's Nick Nolte who absolutely steals the show and, amazingly, offers what might be his best performance since 2011's Warrior. Jada Pinkett Smith also serves as a very welcome addition.
One thing that helps with a third entry, often times, is bringing in some new blood. In this case, it's Ric Roman Waugh, stuntman turned filmmaker, who is in the director's chair. Waugh's eye for action is readily apparent here and he also has a knack for pacing. Let people say what they may about a movie like this, but it's not exactly dull. Once things get going, they don't stop. Waugh is bringing a totally different perspective on the series and take on the character of Mike Banning than we had seen previously. It helps this entry feel a bit more mature and not like we're just going through the motions.
Sure, this movie is far from perfect. It loses some points for being predictable, but if that's the biggest sin committed by a movie such as this, is that really such a bad thing? In my mind, while it's certainly up for debate where he stands in the rankings, I think it's fair to say, with this latest outing, Mike Banning has earned his place amongst action hero icons. If you're looking for one last summer popcorn thrillride, this may just do the trick. Angel Has Fallen arrives in theaters this weekend from Lionsgate.