2.5 stars

Government official on phone: You can't go there, that's their headquarters! There's got to be 100 terrorists there!

Secret Service agent Mike Banning: Yeah, well they should have sent more men!

In 2013 two Die Hard' in the White House movies were released. White House Down was by far the more fun of the two. Olympus Has Fallen was the other one, the one starring Gerard Butler as a bad-ass Secret Service agent trying to rescue the president from terrorists that had taken over the White House."

Olympus Has Fallen was most notable for casting Morgan Freeman as speaker of the house instead of president. For Pete's Sake, Morgan Freeman was born to play the president! Instead, square-jawed Aaron Eckhart got the part. Eckhart is a talented actor (see In the Company of Men for verification) but in Olympus he was unimpressive at best.

London Has Fallen takes place three years later. Eckhart returns as President Benjamin Asher, and this time he gets a chance to round out his character just a little bit. More importantly, he gets to kill some bad guys.

And just who are the bad guys? Secret Service agent Mike Banning addresses the question with his eloquent statement, "Get back to Fuckheadistan or wherever it is you're from!"

So there you go.

The story: Bent on revenge after the West killed his daughter on her wedding day during a failed attempt to assassinate him, evil Pakistani arms dealer Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul) arranges to poison the British prime minister. When the leaders of the other nations arrive in London for the funeral, terrorists will take them out.

That's just what happens, so get ready to behold Westminster Abbey and Parliament reduced to rubble. Aware that British security forces have been infiltrated by terrorists, Banning must navigate the mean streets of London as he tries to get the president to the safety of the American Embassy. Of course, the bad guys have other plans. Barkawi's son (Waleed F. Zuaiter) intends to capture the president and chop off his head on a live worldwide internet broadcast.

Fun Fact: London Has Fallen marks the second time in three years that Asher has been kidnapped.

Returnees from the first film include Morgan Freeman, promoted to vice president, and Melissa Leo, Robert Forster, and Jackie Earle Haley as members of the senior staff. Leo, Forster and Haley are given nothing to do, while Freeman settles for some pre-crisis fish joshing that will prove useful later.

The majority of film critics have been engaged in a feeding frenzy over this movie, each trying to find more colorful ways to bash it. For the most part, I enjoyed myself. Thanks to clear trailers, I entered the theater knowing what to expect – non-stop action, leaden quips and righteous violence – and the film delivered.

One moment transcended the stupid-fun action vibe: when the bad guys forced the president to his knees and pulled out the giant blade to behead him, the fiction I was watching faded into the background and all I could think of were those miserable videos of real terrorists chopping off the heads of real people. I felt outrage. I felt helpless. For a split second I wanted to watch the bad guy in the movie get his murderous head lopped off. Then I remembered that I was watching a work of fiction, and I stared blankly at the scene playing out, feeling nothing but a knot in my belly.

London Has Fallen is entertainment. Not very good entertainment, but it gets the job done. I remember a time when it was fun watching landmarks being destroyed. I remember the satisfaction of witnessing a villain get pasted by a hero. Sometimes I still react like I did back then, but things are different now. Memories of falling towers and words like "propaganda," "xenophobia," "jingoism" and "racism" obscure the images onscreen.

"Get back to Fuckheadistan or wherever it is you're from!" How funny is that? Really.


Ed Johnson-Ott has been NUVO's lead film critic for more than 20 years.