Film Review: ANGEL HAS FALLEN (USA 2019)

Angel Has Fallen Poster
Trailer

Secret Service Agent Mike Banning is framed for the attempted assassination of the President and must evade his own agency and the FBI as he tries to uncover the real threat.

Director:

Ric Roman Waugh

Writers:

Robert Mark Kamen (screenplay by), Matt Cook (screenplay by) | 5 more credits »

ANGEL HAS FALLEN is the third instalment of the FALLEN series of films following 2013’s OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN and 2016’s LONDON HAS FALLEN.  The films follow United States Secret Service agent Mike Banning played by Gerard Butler saving the President for nay harm as his personal bodyguard/agent.  The President was played by Aaron Eckhart in the first two films and replaced by Morgan Freeman in this last venture.  If one has not heard of the FALLEN series, it is not surprising as the films were not that memorable.

Director Ric Roman Waugh appears to believe the notion that sequels have to be louder bigger and more of everything but not necessary better.  What the film lacks compared to other action flicks like martial-arts choreography of car chases is more than made up in the department if pyrotechnics.  There are lots of fire power (weaponry of assorted types) and explosions including one big massive bombing of a huge hospital, the St. Matthew’s.

The plot involves Mike Banning who must race against time to clear his name after being framed for an attack on the US President, Allan Trumbull.  Hence the title ANGEL HAS FALLEN as agent Banning is regarded as the President’s guardian angel who seemingly has fallen from grace.  After the events in the previous film, Secret Service agent Banning finds himself framed for an assassination attempt on President Allan Trumbull.  Pursued by his own agency and the FBI, Banning turns to unlikely allies to clear his name and uncover the real terrorist threat.

The unlikely ally in the story is Mike’s father, Clay (Nick Nolte, still recognizable under all that beard) who has had a falling out with his son and now living like as hermit and very strange person (as Nolte is, in real life).  Clay has ammassed a whole lot of explosives in order to protect himself and property, which is another excise for lots of pyrotechnics.  

ANGEL HAS FALLEN appears to follow all the rules of action filmmaking.  There is a showdown between villain and hero at the film’s climax where the two fight to the death in hand-to-hand combat.  Included is the national concern of the Government employing private syndicates to do its dirty work instead of the military which is less transparent to the people.  The President is updated to a African American and he has good heart and wishes the best for the country.  The hero is connected to family.  He has served well his country in the past and suffers from past injuries such as insomnia and migraines from his previous work.  Yet ANGEL HAS FALLEN is predictable being so formulaic in its determination to be a hit.  The film also runs a lengthy two hours with so much firepower and explosions that the action set-pieces look lacklustre and dull.  There is nothing here that audiences have not seen before and louder and bigger do not necessary make it better.

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/videoplayer/vi1869200409?playlistId=tt6189022&ref_=tt_ov_vi

Film Review: DEN OF THIEVES (USA 2018)

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Den of Thieves Poster
Trailer

A gritty crime saga which follows the lives of an elite unit of the LA County Sheriff’s Dept. and the state’s most successful bank robbery crew as the outlaws plan a seemingly impossible heist on the Federal Reserve Bank.

Writers:

Christian Gudegast (screenplay), Christian Gudegast | 1 more credit »

 

DEN OF THIEVES is a bank heist action thriller complete with shoot-out, car chase and suspenseful robbery execution, the kind that was popular in the 70’s but is seldom seen on the screen these days.  It is written and directed by German American Christian Gudegast, whose German roots can only be noticed at the end of the film when Gerard Butler curses: “F***ing Fraulein!”

DEN OF THIEVES stands out from the typical bank heist caper as it shows two sides of the coin – the Los Angeles Sheriff Department’s elite unit and the robbery crew, with about equals screen time divided between the two.  The former is led by ‘Big Nick’ (Gerard Butler) while the latter by Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber).  But Merrimen is sure no Robin Hood.

Whose side will the audience take?  When the film starts and the heist planning gets under way and then the execution, it is human nature to root for the robbers, to want them to succeed – especially when the voiceover explains how impossible a heist in L.A. is.  But Gudegast also has Nick utter the words to one of his suspects: “We are the bad guys. We don’t arrest criminals.  We kill them and do the paperwork after.”

Gudegast’s film is by no means perfect but it has it pleasures.  In fact, it is really easy to pick out what is wrong with the film and to dismiss it as total rubbish.  But on the positive side, Gudegast creates a very credible nitty-gritty atmosphere where life seldom, if ever turns out right.  At times, it feels like one is dunked in porn culture, from the strip joints, cheap restaurants and other shady stores (3 suits for $100) that the characters frequent.  But the climax leaves much to be improved.  The shoot out scene on the highway with cars back to back is hardly realistic when one cannot see any bystanders or drivers in the stalled vehicles.  The cops keep shouting to the drivers, stay down, stay down, but when an overhead shot pans the tops of the cars, no person can be seen unless they have really stayed down perfectly low horizontally.  The twists in the plot (not to be revealed in this review) is also explained sloppily in flashback.  There is a clumsy scene set in a London pub, where Donny suddenly spawns a British accent.  The film runs too long at 2 and a quarter hours.  Though one could com pain on the slow segments, these segments actually provide a good breather for the audience to catch their breathe and evaluate the past proceedings.  The insertion of Nick’s family problems is also clumsily insetted, just to provide sympathy for the protagonist.

Butler is ok in his DIRTY HARRY role but it is O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Donnie who steals the show.

The first third of Gudegat’s film works better than the other two thirds with the climax a complete letdown.  But the first third is actually pretty good and an effective and absorbing bank heist planning.  The conclusion is that the flawed film achieves its promised good nitty-gritty atmosphere with some suspenseful moments.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKd_ks0rdAM

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Movie Review: LONDON HAS FALLEN (2016)

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london_has_fallenLONDON HAS FALLEN (USA 2015) **
Directed by Babak Najafi

Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman

Review by Gilbert Seah

Audiences are always awed when world famous landmarks are demolished on screen. But when these are done by CGI, it loses its effect and even more when too many, as in this film tumble to the ground. The single sight of a bus crashing at Piccadilly Circus in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON one without CGI is so much more exciting than anything seen in LONDON HAS FALLEN.
For those who have forgotten the film OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, LONDON HAS FALLEN is a sequel to that 2013 film in which terrorists attacked the White House In LONDON, the terrorists are shifted from the Koreans to the Muslims. All the actors in the first film reprise their roles in the sequel. Aaron Eckhart plays the U.S. President, Benjamin Asher with the same lead character the super U.S. Secret service Agent, former Army Ranger, Mike Banning, again played by Gerard Butler. Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Robert Forster Radha Mitchell and ours reprise their roles.

Swede director Babak Najafi takes over the directing reigns from Antoine Fuqua. Nahafi’s only credit is the sequel to EASY MONEY called EASY MONEY 2 that never got a release in North America.

The simple plot involves the British Prime Minister dying under questionable circumstances. When all the world’s most powerful leaders including President Benjamin Asher and Manning travel to London for the funeral, all the leaders including the Canadian P.M. are assassinated.

There can be little suspense less excitement in a film where the lead character like this super security bodyguard is invincible. No matter how low the odds on survival, no matter how much enemy firepower or enemy numbers there are, the audience knows he will get through with hardly a scratch. The script attempts to up the angst by having his wife (Mitchell) deliver a baby while he is on assignment in London, but with little effect.

There is little to praise in a script that follows the rules of an action flick without much imagination. It begins with the set up, the main staging of the falling of London and the saving of the U.S. President at all costs. And of course, the mastermind villain is taken down at the end. The dialogue is also run of the mill. President: “What if you don’t come back (for me)?” Butler: “Then you are f***ed. Don’t jinx me” President: “That was encouraging.” At least in the first OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, the First Lady (Ashley Judd) gets killed – a major surprise. No twists in the plot or surprises in this one.

Gerard Butler is too eager to be seen in blockbuster 5-star films. In these two weeks, he has been over-exposed in GODS OF EGYPT and LONDON HAS FALLEN. 5-star movies? Apparently London is not the only thing that has fallen.
Compared to OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, LONDON HAS FALLEN is more of the same. But mostly, recycled material that the audience has seen already once too often.

 

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Movie Review: GODS OF EGYPT (USA 2016) **

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gods_of_egypt_poster.jpgGODS OF EGYPT (USA 2016) **
Directed by Alex Proyas

Starring: Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Courtney Eaton, Chadwick Boseman, Elodie Yung

Review by Gilbert Seah

The Lionsgate blockbuster GODS OF EGPYT has been plagued by many problems the most notable of it being a totally white cast for its lead characters. But this is the least of the film’s troubles. Made by Lionsgate, the HUNGER GAMES company that desperately needs a big hit after their stock plummeted 30% in one day after the earnings announcement, this $140 million production is only expected to gross, by industry estimates only $15 million on its opening weekend. To Lionsgate credit, it claims that it only footed $10 million of the budget, the rest covered by pre-sales and tax credits. The Australian Government apparently paid half the production costs.

The director Alex Proyas (I, ROBOT, THE CROW) claims that the world of Gods of Egypt never really existed. It is inspired by Egyptian mythology, and therefore it would make no sense to attempt any historical accuracy because that would be pointless — none of the events in the movie ever really happened. So, it does not really matter that the film was never shot in Egypt but down-under.

The story of Gods and man is set in Egypt. At the film’s start, the audience is given the heads-up by voice-over of the film’s setting. Apparently God and man are co-existing side-by-side. The film distinguishes one from the other by the size. Gods are figures that appear much taller (or larger) than humans. The film opens with a common human thief, Bek (Brenton Thwaites) stealing an amulet to offer it as a gift to his everlasting love. They attend the coronation of the crowning of the new King, Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), whose throne is stolen by Uncle Set (Gerard Butler with all the growling he can muster!) After that, it is the quest of reclaiming the throne.

Since when do Gods die or fight for a throne? And where does the idea of so many Gods living together ever come from? The main premise is as ridiculous as it looks and it does look even sillier in a big budgeted film. One best example is the scene of the coronation with the screen filled with thousands of spectators as far the the screen can hold. How then can they hear what is going on on the stage when the microphone was not invented then. The scene reminds one of MONTY PYTHON’S LFE OF BRIAN where the Monty Python group complain about being unable to hear what Jesus was preaching during the sermon on the Mount.

The film running more than 2 hours is CGI gone mad. The special effects, 3D and CGI are costly and look good on the screen. But the script meanders more than the Nile giving the impression that the writers are making things up as they go along. For a multi-million dollar epic, the one-liners could at least being funnier. “Run…”, “Run Faster”… are the best the film has to offer. The climatic fight is good enough, performed at the top of a pyramid, but the entire adventure turns out to be a totally boring affair.

Never has so much money been devoted to the realm of boredom.

 

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