London Has Fallen
Rated R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity
Adrenaline-Fueled Sequel Follows “Bigger Is Better” Golden Rule
The conventional wisdom for shooting a sequel to a successful action flick is that “bigger is better.” In the case of this bigger-budgeted follow up to Olympus Has Fallen, that translates to bigger guns, more elaborate chase scenes, a higher body-count and more bombastic pyrotechnics, including my favorite staple of the genre, exploding cars careening off cliffs in flames.
Directed by Babak Najafi, London Has Fallen again stars Gerard Butler as Mike Banning, the Secret Service Agent in charge of protecting the President of the United States. Also reprising their roles are Radha Mitchell as his wife, Leah; Aaron Eckhart as President Asher; Morgan Freeman as Vice President Trumbull; Angela Basset as Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs; Melissa Leo as Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan; and Robert Forster as General Clegg.
At the point of departure, we find the Bannings picking out paint samples for their first baby’s nursery. Leah is due in a couple weeks, and the prospect of fatherhood has Mike seriously contemplating retirement. But before he has a chance to tender a letter of resignation, word arrives that the British Prime Minister has just passed away unexpectedly.
Over his worried wife’s objections, Mike grudgingly agrees to join the detail accompanying the President to the funeral. Despite very heavy security in London, all hell breaks loose when radical Muslims disguised as Bobbies and Beefeaters open fire, assassinating several of the 28 leaders of the Free World in attendance.
Mike instinctively springs into action, endeavoring to escort the President via limo from Westminster Abbey back to Air Force One. Of course, this is easier said than done, since it’s almost impossible to tell the good guys from the bad, and terrorists armed with automatic weapons and RPGs are lying in wait at every turn. Also aboard for the hair-raising, roller coaster ride are Director Jacobs, Agent Bronson (Andrew Pleavin), and an MI6 Agent (Charlotte Riley) they encounter along the way.
With the help of cartoon physics and a bulletproof physique, Mike ultimately manages to prevail against the army of bloodthirsty jihadists doing the bidding of the diabolical mastermind, Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul). Let’s just pray that he’s up for a third round of heroic exploits to keep the world safe for freedom and democracy.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 100 minutes
Open Road Films
Rated R for nudity, graphic violence, drug use and pervasive profanity
Ruthless Russian Mobsters Blackmail Crooked Cops In Riveting, High Body-Count Thriller
Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet) assumed the reins of an Atlanta-based crime syndicate after her husband Vasili (Igor Komar) was sent up the river. Despite the jailing of the ruthless mobster, the gang’s operations have continued to flourish with the help of corrupt police officers and ex-Marines. One crooked cop, Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie), even has a young son (Blake McLennan) with Irina’s sister, Elena (Gal Gadot), which makes him all the more vulnerable to manipulation.
Like a Russian version of the Mexican drug lord El Chapo, Vasili is just itching to get out of jail. So, Irina hatches a plan to spring him from prison with the help of the various authorities she already has in a compromising position.
In 25 words or less, the scheme involves issuing a phony 9-9-9, the police code for “officer down,” since every police car would be immediately dispatched to the scene not only to assist the wounded brother in blue but to apprehend the perpetrator. Theoretically, at least, that drain on available resources would afford Irina’s henchmen an opportunity to strike.
Thus unfolds Triple 9, a rather riveting cat-and-mouse caper directed by Aussie John Hillcoat (The Road). The over-the-top action thriller featuring an intriguing plot was written by first-time scriptwriter Matt Cook.
Its cast includes an array of A-list actors topped by Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Teresa Palmer and Michael Kenneth Williams. Having so many talented thespians pays off in spades for a picture which proves compelling from beginning to end.
At heart, Triple 9 is a nihilistic adventure set in a disturbing, urban dystopia filled with nothing but untrustworthy backstabbers. That makes it darn near impossible to find a protagonist to root for besides Sergeant Jeffrey Allen (Harrelson), a clean detective capable of smelling a rat.
The wily veteran in charge of the investigation must negotiate his way down a dangerous gauntlet while sorting out suspects right in the ranks of his own department. What makes his plight even dicier is the pyrotechnics-driven flick’s “When in doubt, blow it up!” philosophy.
An alternately visceral and cerebral, high body-count crime thriller not to be missed!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 115 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening March 4, 2016
Desierto (R for profanity and graphic violence) Suspense thriller set along the Rio Grande and revolving around a rifle-toting vigilante’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) hunt for undocumented alliens attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. With Gael Garcia Bernal, Marco Perez and Diego Catano. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Unrated) Adaptation of “The Taliban Shuffle,” war correspondent Kim Barker’s (Tina Fey) memoir about her relationship with a fellow journalist (Martin Freeman) while covering Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. With Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton and Alfred Molina.
Zootopia (PG for action, rude humor and mature themes) Animated adventure about a rookie bunny cop (Ginnifer Goodwin) who grudgingly partners with a fast-talking fox (Jason Bateman) to solve a series of mysterious disappearances in a city populated by anthropomorphic animals. Voice cast includes Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Shakira, Octavia Spencer and Tommy Chong.
Ava’s Possessions (R for profanity, sexuality and graphic images) Louisa Krause plays the title character in this horror flick as a woman who has her demons exorcised by a priest (John Ventimiglia) only to have them try to reenter her body. With Carol Kane, Wiliam Sadler and Jemima Kirke.
Camino (Unrated) Action adventure, set in the jungles of Colombia in 1985, about a war photographer (Zoe Bell) who embeds with a group of missionaries under the thumb of a charismatic guerilla leader (Nacho Vigalondo). Cast includes Francisco Barreiro, Sheila Vand and Tenoch Huerta. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)
Colliding Dreams (Unrated) Middle East documentary examining the competing interests of the Israelis and Palestinians in the decades-long struggle over the tiny territory they continue to cohabit.
Emelie (Unrated) Psychological thriller about an unsuspecting couple (Chris Beetem and Susan Pourfar) that comes to regret leaving their kids with a new babysitter (Randi Langdon) before going out to dinner to celebrate their wedding anniversary. With Joshua Rush, Carly Adams and Sarah Bolger.
The Final Project (Unrated) Found-footage horror flick about a half-dozen college students who find more than they bargained for while exploring an abandoned mansion on a Louisiana plantation. Co-starring Arin Jones, Amber Erwin, Teal Haddock, Charles Orr, Jejuan Walker and Evan McLean.
Knight of Cups (R for sexuality, nudity and profanity) Terrence Malick directed this surrealistic character study revolving around an introspective writer’s (Christian Bale) odyssey of self-exploration. Cast includes Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Brian Dennehy, Antonio Banderas and Freida Pinto.
Road Games (Unrated) Cat-and-mouse thriller about two strangers (Andrew Simpson and Josephine de La Baume) who meet on the street in Calais before accepting a ride hitchhiking from a mysterious married couple (Frederic Pierrot and Barbara Crampton). With Feodor Atkine, Pierre Boulanger and Edward Hogg. (In English and French with subtitles)
They Will Have to Kill Us First (Unrated) Freedom of expression documentary chronicling the clash of civilizations between defiant, Malian musical artists determined to preserve their country’s rich cultural heritage and Islamic jihadist invaders inclined to behead anyone who doesn’t submit to their interpretation of Islam. (In French, Songhay, English, Bambara and Tamashek with subtitles)
The Wave (R for profanity and shocking images) Disaster flick, set in the fjords of Norway, about a geologist’s (Kristoffer Joner) race to save a tourist retreat nestled in a narrow valley from a giant tsunami about to crush everything in its path. featuring Thomas Bo Larsen, Ane Dahl Torp and Laila Goody. (In Norwegian with subtitles)