If action movies are the heavy-metal of the film world then “Angel Has Fallen,” starring Gerard Butler in his third turn as Secret Service Agent Mike Banning, is the Ywengie Malsteen of the genre. It’s too loud, too frenetic with too many notes.
After years on the job Banning is starting to feel the wear and tear of protecting the president. Concussions have given him with migraines and insomnia. Getting knocked around by bad guys has left him with painful compressed discs, and his doctor is not hopeful. “You’re a disaster waiting to happen.”
Things aren’t much better at work. According to President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) the White House is, “leakier than a submarine with a screen door,” with top level info somehow making its way into the hands of nosy reporters. “I don’t know who to trust anymore,” says Trumbull. Of course, he trusts Banning, so much so he chooses him to head the massive security team accompanying him on a fishing trip. Out on the water it’s chilly, but idyllic until the hundreds of drones swoop in, wiping out the entire POTUS security detail except for Banning.
Later, in the hospital Banning is grilled by an FBI agent. “The president is in a coma and your whole team is dead. Tell me how that happened.”
Trouble is, he doesn’t remember and the FBI, who have discovered his DNA on launch controls, encrypted folders and a $10 million in an offshore bank, look at him as the sole suspect. “President Trumbull’s top guardian angel has fallen tonight,” screams a news report.
Banning has saved cities, rescued presidents but can he save himself? Cue the explosions and a rather memorable cameo from Nick Nolte as, what else, a grizzled old man.
“Angel Has Fallen” plays its hand at every turn, telegraphing the obvious, making sure the audience, who likely aren’t paying attention to the dialogue in anticipation of more explosions, get every detail. That means no suspense, just loud noises. Lots of them. Former stuntman-turned-director Ric Roman Waugh loves to blow things up, filling the screen with flames and your ears with booms. It’s the stuff of action movies, but when coupled with dialogue that sounds like it was run through the Cliché-O-Matic—”I’m not going to stop until I prove you really did this!”—the action is more of a distraction from the story than a compliment to it.
The film has under currents of social commentary. A bad guy bets on “making America strong again” and Danny Houston’s character, a war dog named Wade Jennings, ushers in a conversation on private soldiers, but neither are explored in any depth.
“Angel Has Fallen” has its pleasures. Nolte is a gas and fans of pyrotechnics will be satisfied but it feels more like a direct to steaming actioner than a big screen experience.