Angel Has Fallen **
Dir: Ric Roman Waugh. With: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Piper Perabo, Jada Pinkett Smith. 120 mins. Cert: 15
Is Gerard Butler hellbent on remaking every last action movie of the 1990s? The thought arose during last year’s Den of Thieves, in which Butler bellowed his way through the Al Pacino role in a cut-price Heat; it was followed by Hunter Killer, a Crimson Tide-ish sub thriller where Butler tried something close to character work. With that project having sunk commercially, he’s returned to his signature role of Mike Banning, patriot, dad and Secret Service agent par excellence, introduced in 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen and 2016’s London Has Fallen. Angel, which sets a weary Banning scrambling to prove his innocence after being framed for a drone attack that leaves President Morgan Freeman comatose, qualifies as a twofer: it’s Gerry doing In the Line of Fire and The Fugitive.
As with many of the star’s recent projects, it’s been compiled with minimal quality control, insistently cancelling out its better ideas with turns for the derivative. The budget stumps up decent pyrotechnics but sloppy green-screen work, again flagging what American action cinema lost after the 2008 financial crash and the near-simultaneous retreat of the moneyed Jerry Bruckheimer, while the deeply retro indifference to women is such we’re just not meant to notice Banning’s wife now has a completely different face (Piper Perabo, in for the judiciously unavailable Radha Mitchell). The conspiracy business, meanwhile, yields zero surprises from scene one: Banning being put through manoeuvres by hawkish military pal-turned-private security contractor Danny Huston.
That said, there are diverting ideas to cancel out: as with Den of Thieves, Angel falls into the “lively mediocrity” category of Butler schlock, with one or two plot hikes that suggest the script meetings were well-refreshed. How else to explain our hero’s reunion with his grizzled hermit father (Nick Nolte, unintelligible), save that the producer-star also enjoyed Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? Or the finale, in which Huston’s hackers turn a hospital against itself? Everything’s too dashed off to make much of these flickers of inspiration, but flickers it has, and – whisper it – Butler is becoming a low-key selling point, taking this nonsense laudably seriously. You’d draw the line at his Bad Boys, but he may have a Hard Target or Under Siege in him yet.
Angel Has Fallen opens in cinemas nationwide today.