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August 25, 2019

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Franchise Angel fails to take flight

THERE is a certain mindless pleasure in the “Fallen” movies.

Watching Gerard Butler muscle his way through increasingly preposterous obstacles as a Secret Service agent can be amusing and oddly transfixing at the same time.

But whatever this franchise got away with in “Olympus Has Fallen” and then, miraculously, in the totally unnecessary and very unintentionally silly sequel “London Has Fallen,” it’s clear that the well has run dry on this idea and character.

Butler and the filmmakers sleepwalk their way through “Angel Has Fallen,” the third, and hopefully last, visit with agent Mike Banning.

This time, the powers that be have decided to make Banning a fugitive. He’s on the run after being falsely accused of orchestrating an assassination attempt on US President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) that kills 18 Secret Service Agents and leaves the commander in chief in a coma.

There is a dizzying amount of plot thrown at “Angel Has Fallen.” Banning has a toddler daughter with wife Leah (Piper Perabo, subbing in for Radha Mitchell in the thankless “worried wife” role) and he’s considering scaling back from dangerous field work for the sake of his family and his own health after too many concussions on the job.

Oh and Nick Nolte, playing Banning’s estranged father Clay, is living off the grid in the woods and having some regrets about leaving his wife and young child some years ago.

And I haven’t even had the opportunity or reason to mention that this film also has Tim Blake Nelson playing the vice president and Jada Pinkett Smith as the FBI agent who is leading the hunt for Banning.

It’s too much and too little at the same time and neither absurd nor exciting enough to maintain an audience’s interest for two hours.

Directing this time is Ric Roman Waugh, a stuntman and actor-turned-director whose most high-profile outing in that capacity was the 2013 Dwayne Johnson vehicle “Snitch.”

He also shares script credit with Matt Cook (“Patriots Day”) and Robert Kamen (“Taps”).

But this movie has none of the personality that you would expect from those filmmakers. The action itself feels oddly low budget and claustrophobic. Quick shots of a semi truck’s headlights and a gloved finger pulling a trigger are ineffectively used to create suspense too many times.

And for all its hot topics, “Angel Has Fallen” doesn’t have much to say about military veterans, Russian interference or the lifetime effects of brain trauma.

It just plops those buzz words into the movie and moves on to the next shootout. It might still be passable for cable, but this series has sadly fallen into unwatchable territory.


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