FILM OF THE WEEK: London Has Fallen (15) **
London Bridge is falling down, along with Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, in Babak Najafi's overblown sequel to White House Down.
Transplanting the pyrotechnics across the Atlantic, London Has Fallen imagines a terrorist attack in retaliation to a G8-sanctioned drone strike in the Punjab province that slaughters dozens of innocent bystanders.
A serious debate about the ethics of war is low on the list of priorities for four screenwriters, who use swear words as punctuation and toss clunky one-liners into the fray as punchlines to the deaths of bad guys.
Die Hard and countless imitators have entered this blood-smeared territory before and Najafi’s picture offers nothing new to an overcrowded genre.
Chases and bone-crunching fight sequences nod respectfully to the Jason Bourne saga, including a shooting match on the disused Jubilee Line platform at Charing Cross, that minds the gap between realism and testosterone-fuelled fantasy.
Two years after a drone strike that was supposed to kill terrorist mastermind Aamir Barkawi, the British Prime Minister dies in his sleep.
Statesmen and women from around the globe gather for the funeral. Among the attendees are US President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), German Chancellor Agnes Bruckner (Nancy Baldwin), Canadian Prime Minister Robert Bowman (Nigel Whitmey), French Prime Minister Jacques Mainard (Philip Delancy) and Italian Prime Minister Antoni Gusto (Alex Giannini).
Aided by his son Kamran (Waleed Zuaiter), vengeance-seeking Barkawi dispatches a gun-toting army to infiltrate the ceremony with the intention of assassinating the leaders who sanctioned the drone strike.
Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) takes charge of protecting the President and his boss, US Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett).
Meanwhile back in the US, Vice President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) is horrified to learn that Barkawi is behind the atrocity.
London Has Fallen delivers all of the thrills and spills that fans will demand, but little more.
Characterisation and the plot are paper thin, and Butler and Eckhart possess miraculous powers, emerging from hails of bullets without a scratch.
Moments of unintentional hilarity, like the name of the new Prime Minister or one American reporter’s assertion that a couple of explosions have ‘decimated most of the major landmarks in the British capital’ keep the tedium at bay.