Gerard Butler has returned as Mike Banning, and we should be happy about this!
Yes, granted — there is a built-in bias with a film such as this one. Currently there is a cadre of writers (myself and our own Kira Davis among them) as well as general fans who are celebrating The Month of Butler, as August has been #ButlerFest for us. We have been providing live threads of viewings, and even podcasting about the magnificence of Scotland’s greatest thespian. (Kira joined us on a very spirited episode concerning “Geostorm”.)
Give us Gerard Butler, a detailed-free script, and copious action scenes and it is hard to go wrong. Critics tend to either detest or deride these offerings, but nobody is sitting down expecting to be overwhelmed with Oscar-caliber content. These films are made to pander, with the only component being it is served up with a modicum of professionalism.
This third installment in the improbable “Fallen” franchise (no title has ever crossed the $100 million mark) is in fact done professionally. The third director to take the reins is Ric Roman Waugh, in just his second major film. He was last seen, six years ago, directing Dwayne Johnson in “Snitch”, but he delivers the goods in this iteration. Well composed action scenes and sharply filmed explosions immerse us in the action. Gone are the quotable one-liners but the pathos and some comedic banter are still enough to provide us with some leavening levity.
Butler’s Mike Banning is first shown hard in training, but contending with serious lingering medical issues that could be impacting his job as the President’s #1 Secret Service agent. Morgan Freeman has ascended to the Oval Office (President Aaron Eckhart has been term-limited out) and Banning is no less diligent in his protective duties. During a fishing excursion the President’s detail comes under attack, and while narrowly escaping with their lives Mike finds that he has become the primary suspect.
This sets up the balance of the action, with a blend of plot devices directly lifted from “The Bourne Identity” and “The Fugitive”. Some contemporary political elements are infused, including Russian involvement in our affairs and mention of our elections being tampered with. And while the plot is basically easy to unravel those story points are rarely as important to the “Fallen” films than giving Butler enough of a vehicle to carry the proceedings. And carry he does.
The supporting cast is ample and skilled enough, with “John Wick” star Lance Reddick lending gravitas, and action vet Danny Huston serving as a good presence from Banning’s past. Stealing the show though is Nick Nolte as Banning’s father, an ideal foil for the eracible SS agent. Overall we are served a different variation of the character while allowing Butler all the room to make this his picture.
Waugh does some fine work giving us technically proficient action scenes. His stunt work is sublime, with not only numerous explosions but having stuntmen inserted directly into the detonations. A drawback is some of the broader CGI work is dodgy, a result of a limiting budget, but really only noticeable if you are looking to pick apart details.
This is Butler’s film however, and he embraces it, sinks his teeth into the role, and runs with the show. We came into this expecting broad action, firm performances, and sure-handed direction to deliver the expected goods. For all concerned they delivered, and it is splendid fun.
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