defense of gerard bulter 5

Mike Bannon, All American Anti-Hero

The Fallen duology of Olympus Has Fallen (’13) and London Has Fallen (’16) – soon to be a trilogy with Angel Has Fallen (’18) – is one of the nastiest series of entertainment ever delivered unto a mainstream audience. They’re ugly, xenophobic throw backs to Chuck Norris’ Cannon Films output of the ‘80s (think: Invasion USA [‘85]) that possibly represent a very deep-seated anger that boils beneath the surface of blue collar working class mall-goers who transformed the pictures into rather impressive hits (at least for this sort of action filmmaking). At the center of it all is Butler’s deranged Secret Service Agent Mike Banning – a one-man army who protects the President (Aaron Eckhart) against all threats, foreign and domestic. He’s a “hero” who can hardly contain his joy every time he stabs a terrorist in the face, a cross between Jason Voorhees and Joe Hallenbeck from The Last Boy Scout (’91). Butler’s the reason these movies are utterly amazing, because he creates an amoral death machine where the hero should be.

While Olympus is crazy, London Has Fallen is absolutely out of its fucking mind, packing enough jingoism and racism into one ninety-minute bullet bonanza to fuel an entire Trump rally. By the time Banning is prowling the streets of Londontown, mowing down legions of terrorists – via rather impressive one-take alley shoot out sequences – it’s difficult not to feel sorry for the legions of faceless villains he pumps pounds of lead into. During one of his final fights, Butler delivers the mother of all “rah rah” monologues before banishing his opponent back to “Fuckheadistan”:

“You know what you assholes don’t get? We’re not a fucking building! We’re not a fucking flag! We’re not just one man! Assholes like you have been trying to kill us for a long fucking time. But you know what? A thousand years from now, we’ll still fucking be here!”

Admit it: you’d cheer if you didn’t have a moral compass. But that’s the beauty of these films: they’re the apex of Butler’s animal magnetism, as he’s channeling this recklessly mutated take on an American hero that actually stands for everything that’s bad about the United States. Yet he’s so good at it, you want to root for him. There’s a reason London Has Fallen grossed over $200 million worldwide, and is a mainstay on Netflix: Butler makes this despicable badass compulsively watchable, politics be damned.

Two other schlocky weird outs – Gods Of Egypt (’16) and Geostorm (’17) – attempted to exploit Butler’s nutty charisma to the same effect (and Gods is very entertaining, though for other WTF reasons), but do not quite achieve the same glorious insanity of the Fallen films. With Mike Banning, Butler found the perfect character to cram all his idiosyncratic charms into one sociopathic package.

Den of Thieves is the latest Butler adventure, and while the year is still young, it’s easily one of the very best pieces of empty calorie entertainment we’ll receive in ‘18. Playing like a Redbox approximation of Michael Mann’s Heat (’95), Butler’s Major Crimes Lieutenant “Big Nick” Flanagan is a natural extension of Mike Banning – drunk, puffy faced, violent, eating donuts off the ground at crime scenes, and generally acting like the actor’s estimation of Al Pacino on blow. Hopefully, Butler stays on this path, as trash cinema lovers need a Patron Saint – a modern slab of pure masculinity, ready to fight or fuck at a moment’s notice. God bless him and keep him in our good grimy graces.

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