In what is presumably the last of the Fallen movie series, invincible Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is up to his old tricks—doing his best John McClane impression as bullets and bombs and fists fly all around him. Like the first two films in the series, Angel Has Fallen is a relatively harmless (though preposterous) bit of testosterone-heavy, slam-bang action. Unlike its predecessors, however, it’s starting to show a bit of wear. Aside from Butler being a little longer in the tooth, the story is getting harder and harder to believe (though too easy to predict), as the pace slows to a crawl.
The set-up, courtesy of screenwriters Robert Mark Kamen (Taken), Matt Cook (Patriots Day), and director Ric Roman Waugh (Snitch), is simple enough—bad guys attempt to assassinate President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) and frame Banning for it. Meanwhile the true culprits are—well, it’s so easy to figure out their identity that it’s not really even worth discussing.
Banning, meanwhile, is dealing with the repercussions of the events of the first two films (migraines, etc.), plus he and his wife Leah (Piper Perabo, taking over for the vacating Radha Mitchell) have a new toddler, so there’s plenty on Mike’s mind even before the poop hits the fan. But then, when the entire U.S. law enforcement community (and a surprisingly vigilante public) join in the manhunt after he deftly escapes custody, Banning pulls out all the stops to stay on the run, Fugitive-style, until he can clear his name.
Hot on his trail is the FBI’s Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith), a hard-nosed agent who has no doubt about Banning’s guilt. But, as we all know, Banning is wily and resourceful (and, frankly, more than a little lucky), which earns him just enough time to not only avoid capture but also figure out how and why he’s being framed, dispatch most of the bad guys responsible, check in on the wife and kid periodically, and also reunite with his conveniently-placed survivalist dad (Nick Nolte, in one of the movie’s brighter points).
There’s no doubting the fact that Waugh knows his way around a gunfight and a car chase, skillfully choreographing the action pieces just enough to maintain an adequate level of adrenaline and keep your interest. It’s all the in-between stuff—including the predictable yet incredulous plot and cardboard characters—that drag the film down. Since we all know Banning will eventually save the day, it’s the journey that’s important, and this one seems like it’s fallen and can’t get up.