MOVIE REVIEW OF ” ANGLE HAS FALLEN”

The third time isn’t as charming for “Shot Caller” director Ric Roman Waugh’s “Angel Has Fallen” (**1/2 OUT OF ****), the second sequel in the president’s bodyguard trilogy, which commenced with “Olympus Has Fallen” (2013) and then “London Has Fallen” (2016).

Despite a stellar cast of familiar faces and lots of high-octane explosions and shootouts that punctuate the plot, this tolerably entertaining entry ranks as the more formulaic, springing fewer surprises than its predecessors, and lacking a shred of old-fashioned fun.

Indeed, indestructible Gerard Butler is back on guard as the president’s top watchdog Mike Banning, and Banning is every bit as beleaguered here as he was when the fireworks erupted in “Olympus.”  For the record, Butler and Morgan Freeman are the only surviving cast members from “Olympus” and “London” who reprise their roles.

This time out Morgan Freeman governs the Oval Office as President Trumbull, while President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) has departed.  Furthermore, “Coyote Ugly” star Piper Perabo has replaced Radha Mitchell who played Banning’s wife Leah in the first two entries.

Several faces fresh to the franchise participate in this new, larger-than-life escapade.  Among them is Nick Nolte as Mike’s reclusive father, Jada Pinkett Smith as a tenacious FBI agent, Tim Blake Nelson as the bespectacled Vice President, Danny Houston as one of Mike’s old army chums, and “John Wick’s” Lance Reddick as another Secret Service agent on Trumbull’s security detail.

Sadly, Waugh and writers Robert Mark Kamen of “The Transporter” and Matt Cook of “Triple 9” have cooked up a conspiracy thriller bristling with an inventory of genre clichés.  You’ll figure out the identities of the villains long before their treachery is exposed.

Clocking in at a minute over two hours, “Angel Has Fallen” shoehorns one improbable action scene into another with reckless abandon.  Meanwhile, the writers do a skillful job of painting Mike Banning into a corner as a traitor on the Kremlin’s payroll.  Nevertheless, you know nothing can keep a good guy—like Mike Banning—down.

As “Angel Has Fallen” unfolds, Mike Banning has been lying about his health.  Headaches and insomnia plague him.  Rather than jeopardize his status as an active Secret Service Agent, Mike consults private practice doctors who know nothing about him. He has been gobbling painkillers like candy, and he refuses to discuss his health issues with either President Trumbull or his wife Leah.

Mike’s conscience bothers him as he leaves to oversee security on Trumbull’s annual fishing trip.  Earlier, he had visited his old army pal Wade Jennings.  Jennings owns and operates an elite military style training camp in the boondocks and as a private contractor provides mercenaries for Black Ops missions. Although Mike advances further than anybody on the obstacle course, Wade still tags him.

Mike assures Wade he will recommend Jennings and his obstacle course training facilities. Anyway, while Mike is watching Trumbull fish, the President confides in him that he wants Banning as his new Chief of the Secret Service.  Mike agrees to ponder the proposition, but his headaches get him excused from the detail.

In “Angle Has Fallen”, he hasn’t gone far when flocks of drones sweep over the President’s 18-man security detail and blows them to smithereens.  Mike watches this daylight massacre in shock.  He orders his last surviving agent to push the President overboard into the river.  The drones target the Presidential fishing vessel and obliterate it with the Secret Service agent.

Mike swims out and saves the President and then helps him escape.  The moment our hero awakens in an ICU hospital ward, FBI Special Agent Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett-Smith of “Set It Off”) accuses him of murdering his entire team and trying to kill the President.  Mike stares in disbelief at his wrists cuffed to the bed and complains he has been framed. Meanwhile, President Trumbull survived the assassination attempt, but he lies in a coma unable answer questions about the attack.

Of course, the FBI refuses to believe Mike has been framed.  Later, the Feds haul him off in a three-vehicle convoy to a detention facility.  Predictably, Mike doesn’t remain in captivity long.  Unknown assailants sideswipe the convoy and leave no witnesses behind.  Our defiant hero surprises these gunmen and beats the crap out of them.  Eventually,

Mike stumbles up to a gas station and uses a pay phone for a collect call to Leah.  Eavesdropping on Banning’s home phone, Thompson pinpoints Mike’s whereabouts.  Before the Feds careen onto the scene, Mike commandeers an 18-wheeler, but the local constabulary spot and follow him in hot pursuit. The authorities stick to Banning like glue, until he crashes the truck and vanishes into the wilderness.

Mike reaches the home of his reclusive father, Clay Banning (Nick Nolte of “48 HRS”), who lives off the grid like a hermit.  No sooner has Mike caught forty winks than an army of gunmen storm Clay’s acreage.  Mike tries to flee, so the authorities won’t arrest Clay for aiding and abetting a felon.

Abruptly, all Hell breaks loose!  Mike watches in awe as his bearded, hillbilly father triggers explosive charges galore around his cabin.  The next day Mike stacks the dead shoulder-to-shoulder on the porch of Clay’s cabin.

Mike and Clay slip away quietly in an inconspicuous Chevy pick-up, while Feds swarm the cabin.  They scratch their heads over the dead gunmen.  The Bureau cannot identify them because the men don’t show up in any database!  Now, Agent Thompson has second thoughts about Mike’s guilt.

The drone assault in “Angel Has Fallen” is unforgettable.  Not even the hospital wing implosion afterwards overshadows the audacious drone attacks.  Everything boils down to standard-issue genre business, tweaked by an occasional surprise. Jade Pinkett-Smith figures prominently in one of those surprises. Nick Nolte and Gerard Butler make an amusing father and son act.

Despite the far-fetched heroics in this high-octane opus, director Ric Roman Waugh stages several earsplitting firefights crackling with kinetic vitality and has stunt men somersaulted during all the fireball explosions. “Angel Has Fallen” gets by on a wing and prayer.

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