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Film Review: ‘Angel Has Fallen’ Trades Action for Drama but Doesn’t Completely Fail

This is an installment of a regular thisistheBronX film/TV review series by Bronx film reviewer and writer Adam McPartlan. Check back every Friday for Adam’s film reviews.

FILM REVIEW – by Adam McPartlan

September 6, 2019

Angel Has Fallen, the third film in the franchise that sees Gerard Butler do his best John McClane, dips its toe into many different plot points while only really committing to one: predictability. The enemy is exactly who you think it is, the puppet master is exactly who you think it is, and it will end exactly how you think it will end. That said, there is a reason to see this movie. It’s very rare that the third film in an action franchise not named Die Hard gives you great acting from one cast member while also phoning in what made the franchise tolerable to begin with: the visual effects and action. Nevertheless, that is what we have here: a dearth of action, yet a performance that, especially given the clout this actor’s name carries in Hollywood, could very well see him announced as an Oscar nominee.

Mike Banning has nearly died multiple times and, outside of getting shot, stabbed, and nearly blown to hell a million times, has seemed pretty normal with no lingering issues. At least, that’s how he has presented himself to his family and coworkers. Because of constant pain and injuries, Banning has developed an opioid addiction, paying different doctors in cash for painkillers. He is, as one doctor puts it, a catastrophe waiting to happen. So when there is an(other) attempt on the president’s life, while he successfully saves his life, Banning is the prime suspect due to his hidden addiction, planted DNA evidence, and a mysterious offshore account in his name with $10 million. So who will he turn to when he’s living on the run? His dad.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way right now. In spite of trying to give this character any kind of depth, Gerard Butler just cannot out-act the bad writing or directing. Mike Banning is entirely one-dimensional, and while the attempt to give him a second or third layer is admirable, it’s about two movies too late, because we just don’t believe it. He is, at this point, just a wind-up guardian soldier. In addition to the poor development of Banning, though, is the lack of action and effects. Not counting the opening sequence, which was very obviously a training drill from the start, there are six action sequences, and each one has plenty of down time and nowhere near as much tension as the previous two films. To make matters worse, a building explosion was handled so poorly that it looked like a scene out of a film meant to test the use of green screens.

So if all of that was going on, why see it? First, because Gerard Butler is still solid as Mike Banning. Second, and most importantly, Nick Nolte is absolutely wonderful as banning’s estranged father, Clay Banning. The writing clearly played no roll in this because, once again, the writers tried to go one direction and make Clay a broken, disheveled Vietnam veteran still living with PTSD. The problem is they only step in for a brief second before realizing they aren’t working on an Oscar-worthy film, and so they rob Nolte of having an even larger emotional impact. Still, Nolte is a seasoned enough actor that he knows what his character is even if the writers don’t. He embodies the regretful, hurting energy his character requires, while also bringing a comedic paranoia to the role.

So why do I suspect he might get his name announced as an Oscar nominee? In the 90s, there was a film called City Slickers starring Billy Crystal and Jack Palance. Palance was a megastar of the western film genre, best known for his pure evil role in Shane. Up to the point of City Slickers, Palance had only been nominated for Oscars, and that movie was hardly the one to showcase his true abilities, let alone the Best Supporting Actor role of that year. Angel Has Fallen could very well be Nolte’s City Slickers: a glorified lifetime achievement Oscar for an actor who has turned in gritty, heavy, nuanced performances every role he has taken. And even if he doesn’t win, or even get nominated, his work in the movie was well worth two hours of my life.

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Adam McPartlan is a graduate student in the Sports Broadcasting Program at Sacred Heart University. He’s a life-long Bronxite with a deep love of film, television, and writing.

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