There’s a point midway through Angel Has Fallen where there are explosions on top of explosions, blasting baddies every which way without abandon, and copious profane words hiss into the air when the sound isn’t dominated by the destructive burst of death. This is when the film achieves its own form of nirvana, the release of all the pain Gerard Butler’s Mike Banning has been put through.
But of course, there must be more explosions and shooting to come. It’s what we’re here for.
Angel Has Fallen finds itself as the third film in the Gerard Butler cinematic universe of Has Fallen movies, following the fun Olympus Has Fallen (2013) and very racist London Has Fallen (2016). Saving the President twice isn’t enough to win unending loyalty, and so Butler’s Banning is framed for an assassination attempt and must go on the run to prove his innocence.
It’s boilerplate stuff, but it’s what the movie does with it that proves itself a rather tenacious entry. Banning’s old army buddy Wade, played by Danny Huston, refers to their way of life as wolves on multiple occasions, but really, they’re like sharks: they have to keep moving, any sense of stillness a sign of their demise. There’s this inevitable sense of the end foreboding over the film’s proceedings, as age and past events catch up on Banning, showing he’s not the spring chicken he shows off in previous movies. There’s damage done over the years, and it’s taking him in a downward curve.
With that comes a renewed level of dedication and emotional force behind Butler’s performance. He’s fun in these movies, but in this one in particular, there’s a desperation and a rawness. There’s still times of running into nonsense with wild abandon, but now there’s more use of opportunity and tactics when the odds are completely against him. The level of brute force isn’t entirely gone, but it’s interesting seeing this brute force character take on a different tact. Butler matches it with an aged ferocity, a fed up attitude where he’s tired of things not going his way.
This is brilliantly met with Nick Nolte’s addition to the cast as Clay, who breathes life into a saggy middle point and completely dominates the movie when he’s in it. It’s half pathos and half comedic, finding a perfect balance to his wacky and quirky character. He plays off Butler well, the two gruff-speaking actors grumbling and grunting their way through every scene perfectly entwined.
We’re here for the shooting and the banging, though, and Angel Has Fallen delivers those with fine force. There’s plenty of headshots that would make John Wick movies a little nervous for the heat at their back, explosions that rival the big leagues, and a score gripping and oddly reminiscent of The Dark Knight (2008), creating the dread that things can tip at any moment. Director Ric Roman Waugh does an excellent job of making the ridiculous smooth over and become completely acceptable, which is all we could ask for.
Angel Has Fallen may not soar to the wonderful madness that is Olympus Has Fallen, but it doesn’t need to; it finds itself casting a wider net but staying intimate to our main character as he fights for relevancy in a world where greed and technology outweigh the vicious brutality he knows. But sometimes, the old ways are just what we need. This movie is a relic of action movie days waned away, and that’s not at all a bad thing. It holds a place as a quirky action flick that has a little something to say between its bullets and detonations.