The word is carnage. ANGEL HAS FALLEN never goes more than a few minutes without someone or something being taken out. Sometimes in multiples. Often with a fiery conflagration. Very often.
This third in the series featuring dogged Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) finds our hero happily settled into blissful domesticity with wife Leah (Piper Perabo) and a generally serene toddler daughter. Unfortunately for Mike, the adventures of saving the President (Morgan Freeman) from certain death has taken a toll. Migraines, insomnia, and a reliance on pain pills, the which he pops like Pez, have rendered Mike less than his best. Though, to be fair, his less-than-best is still pretty impressive. He gets to show that off after promising his wife that when he returns from work that day, they will have a serious talk about his migraines. In a film like this, that’s a dead giveaway that Mike won’t be coming home that evening, or for several more to come.
This is a flick with lots of noise, but little in the way of novelty or originality. The villain of the piece should come as no surprise, nor should his shadowy confederate when the big reveals arrive. Then again, subtlety is not this film’s raison d’être. Thus it is in short order, and just after that ci-mentioned conversation, that Mike finds himself in a life-and-death struggle with a flock of vicious drones and framed for the attempted assassination of the President. On the run, he explores the tactical possibilities of 18-wheelers and reconnects with his estranged father (Nick Nolte), an off-the-grid misanthrope whose PTSD has him emulating Bigfoot, right down to the grunts. Hot on Mike’s trail is an indefatigable, no-nonsense FBI agent (Jada Pinkett Smith) whose fiercest weapon is the stink-eye she throws at everyone and with extreme prejudice, particularly when they are declaring Mike’s innocence.
Clunky plot devices, stupid moves, and exuberant explosions keep the story moving as the body count rises and the carbon emissions soar from all the smoke and soot generated. Butler, his face twisted in grimace of righteous indignation and testosterone, moves smoothly through his paces outsmarting the ubiquitous hordes of special ops types who scuttle and scurry about trying to take him out. Silly them. Freeman as President is Freeman as President. Which is to say, very much like Freeman as God. One of the high points of this otherwise unremarkable effort is the effects magic that puts him in a photo-op for the G20, a nervous Putin to his right. One sees that and thinks “If only”.
There is a subplot about Mike’s old pal, Wade Jennings (Danny Houston) having a hard time running his mercenary business what with all this peace breaking out all over, and Tim Blake Nelson as the VP with the Boy Scout haircut who finds having the president in a coma tough going due to a short-sighted vision (despite the horn-rims) of how to handle the acting Presidency. They are little more than clichés, but well-acted ones. The same can be said of Perabo, whose only job here is to be weepy and loyal when things go bad for Mike, and she acquits herself admirably, as does Lance Reddick as the retiring Secret Service chief with an icy stare and steely grace.
ANGEL HAS FALLEN becomes monotonous after a while, even with a nicely crafted quip that bubbles up from time to time and the subtle jab at the downside of yokels with guns. Stuck as it is in the second gear of action flicks, it sputters along to a catawampus of a resolution that is as improbable as it is irritating.