Critics cannot abide “London Has Fallen,” the terrorist-foiling actioneer starring Gerald Butler as Mike Banner, once again fighting to keep his boss, President Mike Asher (Aaron Eckhart), out of the clutches of terrorists. Is it because of the muddy, confusing cinematography, the ridiculous storyline, the ludicrously durable hero fighting off hundreds of poorly aiming terrorists with a medium-sized knife? Yes, but mostly because in a day and age of terrorist attacks in European cities by Middle Easterners, it’s apparently offensive and racist to make an action movie about Middle Eastern terrorists attacking European cities.
“London Has Fallen” is a sequel to 2013’s “Olympus Has Fallen,” which didn’t win many awards but benefited from an enclosed “‘Die Hard’ in the White House” setup. Its lukewarm reception was positively rapturous compared to the moralistically scathing notices that have trailed “London,” perhaps because North Koreans are somehow more acceptable villains than Arabs.
The story, more or less: Two years after a drone strike aimed at a terrorist blows up a Pakistani family at a wedding, an incredibly thorough revenge plot comes to fruition as world leaders gather in London for the funeral of the British Prime Minister. From there, a motley collection of terrorists (including a Beefeater) start picking off Europe’s finest, bombing Parliament, and blowing up boats on the Thames. President Asher, who really only wanted to send flowers, must once again be saved by his loyal Secret Service agent, played by Scottish action star Butler, from a fate worse than death: death on YouTube.
Cue the Social Justice Whining
Film critics, taking cues from the new crop of social justice binge-watchers who consider every new show episode a potential problem, are desperately unhappy about the terrorists’ Arabic mien. (Apparently they’re supposed to be British, like they are in every other action movie.)
Problematic? Oh, “London” goes way beyond “problematic.” It’s “freely offensive,” racist, and Islamophobic to boot. Even the massacres in Paris by radical Islamists last November are seen not as a post-justification for the movie’s plot, but somehow make it even more offensive.
Christian Holub of Entertainment Weekly, a formerly entertaining read now in a sharp decline into PC activism, found using an ISIS-like villain morally dubious: “By casting its villain as a suspiciously ISIS-like Middle Eastern terrorist network, London Has Fallen makes itself into a political movie – but its politics are heinous…. At one point, Banning even tells one of the terrorists to ‘head back to F–headistan or wherever you’re from.’ (Incidentally, this racism extends to the terrorists speaking accented English the whole movie, where the European leaders are given the luxury of subtitles).”
As if having the terrorists speaking in Arabic would make him feel any better.
We’ll Virtue Signal Real Big So Terrorists Don’t Hate Us?
Variety’s take was standard Hollywood PC: “Cruddily crafted, grimacingly performed and effortlessly racist….coldly snarling and vindictive about its sequel’s flag-waving….While North Korea was the enemy in ‘Olympus,’ ‘London’ predictably reverts to familiar Islamophobia….ugly brand of reactionary fear-mongering.”
Metro critic Matt Prigge condescendingly fretted that for conservatives the movie “indulges their worst instincts” while hinting its “Cro-Magnon charm” may have perverse appeal to lefties who want to see actors like Morgan Freeman spout right-wing platitudes. Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The Onion’s AV Club was strangely not amused, and eviscerated the “grab bag of dog-whistles and dog-shit filmmaking” on his way to awarding an F grade, while describing the movie’s politics as ranging from “tone deaf to irredeemable…dumpster of xenophobia.”
The left-wing Independent (UK) ran a full aggrieved news article on the critical hash with a headline that shows just how intimately our cousins understand this vast, diverse country: “London Has Fallen movie condemned as racist ‘terrorsploitation’ for Donald Trump era.”
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes summed it up: “London Has Fallen traps a talented cast — and all who dare to see it — in a mid-1990s basic-cable nightmare of a film loaded with xenophobia and threadbare action-thriller clichés.” It currently stands at 27 percent positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, although 63 percent of actual moviegoers liked it. That’s not a stellar number, but does show a gap between elite opinion and the hoi polloi, who aren’t frittering away their precious time on earth tabulating how many seconds imaginary female princesses get to speak in Disney movies.
That Doesn’t Mean You Should See It
With respectable opinion lined up against it, one would hope “London Has Fallen” can’t be all bad. Alas, the critics are half-right. You can’t call “London” a good movie (or even a bad one in that “so bad it’s good” vein). Its superficially shocking premise is undone by murky, graceless filming (some of it done on the cheap in Bulgaria), some unconvincing explosions of London landmarks, and a ridiculously durable hero in the form of Butler’s Mike Banning.
There are lot of f-words, some slick, sardonic exchanges between Banning and his friend the prez, and a surprising lack of blood. Watching Butler mowing down dimly illuminated terrorists like so much grass gets rather ridiculous, and you began to wonder how the same terror masterminds who came up with the elaborate, expensive, painstakingly planned operation would hire passive lunkheads with sub-Stormtrooper aim to carry it out.
Reviewers may be snottily PC in bashing the movie’s “Islamophobia,” though the term “radical Islam” makes not a peep, and Director Babak Najafi is a Swede inconveniently born in Iran. Still, Londoners may rightly take offense at “London Has Fallen’s” portrayal of its MI6 as completely clueless and its security forces as corrupt. But while it may offend English pride, there’s nothing in “London Has Fallen” that should offend an American’s political sensibilities. Only his aesthetic ones.