Category Archives: Crime

John Wick Chapter 2 (2017) Review

Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence and suicide
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as John Wick
Riccardo Scamarcio as Santino D’Antonio
Common as Cassian
Laurence Fishburne as The Bowery King
Ruby Rose as Ares
John Leguizamo as Aurelio
Ian McShane as Winston
Director: Chad Stahelski

Retired super-assassin John Wick’s (Keanu Reeves) plans to resume a quiet civilian life are cut short when Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) shows up on his doorstep with a gold marker, compelling him to repay past favors. Ordered by Winston (Ian McShane), kingpin of secret assassin society The Continental, to respect the organization’s ancient code, Wick reluctantly accepts the assignment to travel to Rome to take out D’Antonio’s sister (Claudia Gerini), the ruthless capo atop the Italian Camorra crime syndicate.

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John Wick Chapter 2 was one of my most anticipated movies of 2017. The original John Wick was great, with its fantastic direction, interesting world and likable main character. So naturally, with one of the directors of the original returning for the sequel, I was looking forward to it. Chapter 2 met all my expectations and even surpassed them. It explored its world even further, its action sequences are even greater than in the original, John Wick Chapter 2 is one of the best action sequels in recent memory.

John Wick Chapter 2 is longer than the original, 2 hours compared to the original’s 1 hour 40 minute runtime. A lot of that is due to Chapter 2 delving deeper into the criminal underworld, which was one of the highlights in the previous movie. There’s a way that these criminals operate and seeing more of the fantastic world created was very intriguing. If there’s any potential flaws story wise, I guess maybe Wick’s motivation isn’t quite as strong as in the first movie, in the original it was for revenge, in the second he’s more forced into a situation. With that said, it’s a bit of a minor issue. Chapter 2 is paced quite well, although pretty fast, it’s slow enough that it allows time for the movie to explore the story and the world. I won’t spoil what happens at the end, but I’ll say that I’m very intrigued in what direction Chapter 3 will go in.

Keanu Reeves is effortlessly great as John Wick, as I said in my John Wick review, this role is perfect for him. He can show off his skill as an action star while being convincing and show a lot of emotion in the role. And this movie is no exception. There are a lot of great supporting characters and actors, some of them returning like Ian McShane, Lance Reddick and John Leguizamo, McShane particularly stealing the spotlight effortlessly. There are also some newer characters that are added which were great to see. I would’ve liked to have seen more of Laurence Fishburne (it did feel like he was put in the movie for fanservice, since him and Reeves were in The Matrix), but maybe we’ll see more of him in the sequel. The same goes for Peter Stormare’s character. The main villain played by Riccardo Scamarcio was okay. He didn’t leave as much of a presence compared to Michael Nyqvist’s Viggo from the first movie, but he wasn’t bad, he worked quite well for the story and I do understand some of the ideas that were put into place with his character. The secondary villains with Common and Ruby Rose were really good and served their parts really well.

The direction of Chapter 2 is once again fantastic. There are so many great action set pieces, not one of them have any flaws and they are all consistently entertaining. They are fast, brutal and thrilling. The third act was especially great (including a sequence involving mirrors). The stunts themselves were also incredible. Another thing that makes these action sequences work so well is that everything is edited to perfection, every cut made is necessary and you can tell what’s going on, the camera doesn’t unnecessarily shake. The colour scheme of the movie is perfect, this movie is beautiful, the cinematography was excellent throughout. Honestly for the movie that they were going for, the direction is perfect. The soundtrack by Tyler Bates was also very effective.

John Wick Chapter 2 is truly a great movie. All the aspects from the previous movie have returned, with the great main character, excellent direction and its fascinating world. Chapter 2 expands on most of these aspects, culminating in a film which is quite possibly superior to the original. I can’t wait to see Chapter 3 in about 2/3 years. The John Wick series is one of the best action film series’ in recent years.

The Fate of the Furious (2017) Review

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto
Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs
Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw
Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz
Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce
Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges as Tej Parker
Scott Eastwood as Eric Reisner/Little Nobody
Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey
Kurt Russell as Frank Petty/Mr Nobody
Charlize Theron as Cipher
Director: F. Gary Gray

With Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) married, Brian and Mia retired and the rest of the crew exonerated, the globe-trotting team has found some semblance of a normal life. They soon face an unexpected challenge when a mysterious woman named Cipher (Charlize Theron) forces Dom to betray them all. Now, they must unite to bring home the man who made them a family and stop Cipher from unleashing chaos.

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I wasn’t sure about how I would feel about The Fate of the Furious. I liked all of the previous instalments of the Fast and the Furious franchise (haven’t seen the fourth though), especially the more entries in the series. However, the series has started to feel tired and forced, so I had no idea what I would think of the movie. Honestly, The Fate of the Furious surprised me, it’s one of the best movies in the series, with it being completely over the top, but also having a fitting story which tied everything together well.

What this movie did better than the past two Fast and Furious movies (which I still enjoy) is that it doesn’t focus unnecessary attention on other plot points. In Furious 7, while it’s a revenge story with Statham hunting down Diesel and his crew, it unnecessarily focussed on a pivotal device called ‘God’s Eye’, which it really didn’t need. Fate is a lot more straightforward and benefits a lot from that. I was never bored throughout the movie, the pacing of the movie was quite fast and at the same time it never felt rushed. As for the main plot point of the movie, the reason for Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto betraying his team (without spoiling anything), it is really well done and works for the movie. This movie does work on an emotional level surprisingly, it’s not just entertaining, there’s enough in this movie to actually care about what is going on. I was entertained from start to finish, Fate of the Furious was a very fun ride.

The acting is the same as it is in the other movies but some actual character development is here, meaning that these actors had more to work with than in other movies. Vin Diesel particularly is given quite a lot to work with emotionally and while he’s not that good as an actor, he did well enough in these certain scenes. The acting from the other cast works well enough (even though they aren’t great), there are some stand outs. Dwayne Johnson as usual brings his A-game and charisma, so entertaining to watch. I also really liked Jason Statham here, instead of serving as a villain like in the last movie, his character this time teams up with the main characters and it surprisingly works quite well. While I liked him in Furious 7, the film didn’t use him to his full potential. Here though he gets a lot to do. He is particularly fun in his scenes with Dwayne Johnson, those two verbally sparring were so entertaining to see. However the most stand out performance is Charlize Theron, who without a doubt plays the best villain in the franchise’s history. Not only is she smart, she is also very threatening and scary, making a real impression. Definitely an impressive character and performance for the franchise.

The action is even more over the top than the previous movies, and that’s saying a lot. All the action is completely entertaining. There were two stand out sequences to me, one of them was the Manhattan sequence, in which Theron’s character hacks cars. The other was pretty much the entire final act, which involves cars driving on ice as well as an submarine firing torpedoes at them, and its absolutely insane. It does go on for a little too long but I still enjoyed every moment of it. The laws of physics are defied completely, so of course do not go into this movie expecting any form of realism. If there’s any criticism I had, some of the fight scenes were filmed a little shakily but that is it.

If you don’t like any of the Fast of the Furious movies, you won’t like this movie. If you don’t like the recent movies in this series and prefer the street racer focussed movies, you won’t like this movie. However, if you enjoyed the movies 5-7, you will probably like this movie. It’s not a great movie but it knows what it is, and is endlessly entertaining. I do feel that it would be unnecessary to have more movies in this series, and Fate of the Furious would be a good way to end the main series, but I would like to see spin off movies, especially if its with Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson, it has a lot of potential.

Hannibal Rising (2007) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Sadistic Violence
Cast:
Gaspard Ulliel as Hannibal Lecter
Gong Li as Lady Murasaki
Dominic West as Inspector Pascal Popil
Rhys Ifans as Vladis Grutas
Director: Peter Webber

After witnessing the violent deaths of his parents at the end of World War II, young Hannibal Lecter (Gaspard Ulliel) flees to his uncle’s home in Paris. He learns his uncle is dead, but the man’s mysterious Japanese widow, Lady Murasaki (Gong Li) welcomes him nonetheless. An aptitude for science helps Hannibal gain acceptance to medical school, where he hones the skills he needs to exact revenge for the atrocities he witnessed.

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Hannibal Lecter is an iconic character that has seen many film and tv appearances (his TV version being my favourite). I’ve liked all of the adaptations, even with some the flaws that some of them have (2001’s Hannibal). There is however an exception for Hannibal Rising, which is by far the worst Hannibal adaptation ever. Aside from a couple of aspects of the film (such as the direction, cinematography and Gaspard Ulliel as Young Hannibal Lector), there isn’t much to like about Hannibal Rising. Then again this movie was pretty much dead on arrival, it being based on Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Rising.

You’d think that an origin story about one of fiction’s most iconic serial killers would be at least somewhat interesting. Unfortunately, this movie somehow ends up being tremendously boring. It’s really hard to care about anything that’s going on, not even Hannibal himself (his characterisations was very lacklustre). In fact, this movie fails as an origin story for Hannibal, it doesn’t even show the gradual change into Hannibal the Cannibal, after a flashback with child Hannibal (a significant event for him), it jumps to when he’s an adult. Although throughout the film he goes through some changes (like killing, and liking cannibalism) from the first time you see adult Hannibal, he is already unhinged. You want to know the worst part about the writing? It was written by Hannibal writer Thomas Harris. He adapted his own book and it still was written horribly. Then again, Thomas Harris was forced to write that novel in the first place, so it sort of makes sense why it’s in that state.

Gaspard Ulliel is playing the young Hannibal Lecter, he well with what he has. Performance wise, I can buy him as the younger version of Anthony Hopkins’s Hannibal. However he’s not given a lot of good material to work with. There isn’t any depth given to this Hannibal Lector, he seems more like a movie teen serial killer as opposed to actually Hannibal Lector. The villainous characters are all one dimensionally evil. There’s one of actor who manages to inject some form of humanity into his character but others are less so, most notably Rhys Ifans, who plays an absolute cartoon villain of a character. Some of the other supporting cast are fine but don’t leave a massive impact.

The one thing consistent throughout the Hannibal movies is that they all look great. The production design and cinematography really reflected it’s time period. The violence (as expected) is very bloody and graphic but it is better handled than in Hannibal (the 2001 movie of course), it didn’t feel as gratuitous. The score also, really good.

Hannibal Rising is hands down the worst Hannibal Lecter movie ever. The bad writing, boring story and hit or miss performances make Hannibal Rising a chore to sit through. The best parts of the movie was Gaspard Ulliel as Hannibal and the cinematography of the film. That’s really the only good things about this movie unfortunately. To be fair this movie was dead on arrival, they had to adapt Hannibal Rising, it’s difficult to imagine that book being adapted into a good movie.

John Wick (2014) Review

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Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & offensive language
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as John Wick
Michael Nyqvist as Viggo Tarasov
Alfie Allen as Iosef Tarasov
Adrianne Palicki as Ms. Perkins
Bridget Moynahan as Helen Wick
Dean Winters as Avi
Ian McShane as Winston
John Leguizamo as Aurelio
Willem Dafoe as Marcus
Director: Chad Stahelski, David Leitch

After the sudden death of his beloved wife, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) receives one last gift from her, a beagle puppy named Daisy, and a note imploring him not to forget how to love. But John’s mourning is interrupted when his 1969 Boss Mustang catches the eye of sadistic thug Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) who breaks into his house and steals it, beating John unconscious and leaving Daisy dead. Unwittingly, they have just reawakened one of the most brutal assassins the underworld has ever seen.

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With the sequel coming sometime soon, I thought I should give my thoughts on the original John Wick. John Wick was one of the most surprising movies of 2014. It wasn’t just a standard Keanu Reeves action flick, it was actually something special, garnering a strong reception and following. It is an entertaining and thrilling action movie.

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The story really isn’t anything special. It’s a revenge story, just with the main character being a former hitman. It’s the execution of the story that makes this movie work so well. The story is set out well, the pace never feeling too fast or too long. The world of John Wick is one of the stand out parts of the movie (which is saying a lot). The world is absolutely incredible and interesting, laid out well. I can’t wait to see how the sequel explores this world. This movie is engaging and riveting, it really never lost my attention once.

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This is the best Keanu Reeves has ever been in a movie (it’s also probably the best movie that Keanu Reeves has ever been in). He is really is believable in this role, and not just in the action scenes, he does actually act well in this movie, he’s not just playing Keanu Reeves like he has in certain other movies. It really does help that Keanu Reeves does his own stunts, it is much easier to buy him as this character. The supporting performances were also great. Michael Nyqvust was quite effective as the main villain as Iosef’s father (and a mob boss), completely owning every scene he’s in. Also, Willem Dafoe, Alfie Allen, Ian McShane and even John Leguizamo were good in their roles (however I would’ve liked if we saw more of Willem Dafoe).

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The action is absolutely fantastic. It doesn’t have a lot of shaky cam or unnecessary quick cuts like most action movies nowadays have. The stunt work was also fantastic (it helps with both directors being stunt men), the fights are intense and don’t feel fake at all. Another thing I liked was that although John Wick is incredibly good at what he does, he’s still human, he doesn’t always win perfectly against people just because he’s John Wick. That makes the action a lot more riveting, he’s not just Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando or something. In terms of the standout action scene, there’s a sequence that takes place in a nightclub (which reminded me of the nightclub scene in Collateral). In terms of flaws, I guess maybe the last action sequence was slightly underwhelming but that’s probably because everything else in the film was so great that it just paled in comparison.

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John Wick has a fantastic world, solid performances, entertaining action, everything you want from an action movie. As I said, the concept of the story itself is nothing special, it’s the execution that makes this film so excellent. If you haven’t already, definitely see John Wick when you can, especially before seeing the sequel which comes out (or already came out depending where you are in the world).

Don’t Breathe (2016) Review

Don't Breathe

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Time: 88 minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, sexual violence & offensive language
Cast:
Jane Levy as Rocky
Stephen Lang as Norman Nordstrom/The Blind Man
Dylan Minnette as Alex
Daniel Zovatto as Money
Director: Fede Alvarez

Rocky (Jane Levy), a young woman wanting to start a better life for her and her sister, agrees to take part in the robbery of a house owned by a wealthy blind man (Stephen Lang) with her boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto) and their friend Alex (Dylan Minnette). But when the blind man turns out to be a more ruthless adversary than he seems, the group must find a way to escape his home before they become his newest victims.

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Horror films nowadays are mostly hit or miss, so I don’t really expect many great horror films every year save for a few. Don’t Breathe however was a movie that has been getting some attention, so naturally I had to check it out. I have to say, Don’t Breathe surprised me, I didn’t expect this movie to be so great. With so many mediocre and occasionally terrible horror movies being released nowadays, it’s nice to see a horror film which can really deliver the tension and scares. This is a must see for horror fans.

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This movie is quite simple in its premise but what makes this movie so great is the execution. This movie is filled with tension. What helped was that this film was pretty contained, it took place mostly inside the Blind Man’s house, and the characters are constantly trying to escape, so the tension never falters once until the end of the movie. I had no idea what direction this film was going in or how it was going to end, the film was very unpredictable. What helps is that this film has like a few characters that it follows, so the film can’t just rely on brutal deaths to increase the scare factor, they need to make the tension work, and they really succeed. If there are any complaints I can make, there is a sort of plot twist that happens near the end of the movie. This plot point is okay, but I don’t think it works fully, without spoiling anything. Also, the last few minutes of the film I felt was unnecessary, it would’ve been better if those were taken out. Overall though I didn’t have a lot of problems with this movie.

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There weren’t a lot of actors in this movie, but the cast did quite a good job. Stephen Lang was really effective as the antagonist of the film, he is a force of nature and is very scary, and he didn’t have many lines. Jane Levy was great in yet another horror movie, she was very believable in her role and so was Dylan Minnuette in his role, both of them gave good performances.

Daniel Zovatto, Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette star in Screen Gems' horror-thriller DON'T BREATHE.

The majority of this film’s success is in its direction, this film is directed excellently. I found out afterwards that the film was directed by Fede Alvarez, who directed the remake of Evil Dead, I can’t wait to see more horror movies from him in the future. There’s definitely not as much blood and gore as there was in Evil Dead, but there was tension throughout, and it never fails. The jump scares that are in this movie aren’t fake, when they are there, they are real scares and actually work. The cinematography and the sound design were absolutely on point, you really feel like you are there with these characters as the movie goes on.

Jane Levy stars in Screen Gems' horror-thriller DON'T BREATHE.

Don’t Breathe was a real surprise for me. All the elements of the film (particularly the direction) help to make this such a thrilling horror movie. It is one of my favourite horror movies of this year, however then again, I guess that’s not saying a lot considering the majority of horror movies are kind of poor. Don’t Breathe was a breath of fresh air in the horror and home invasion genre and is definitely worth watching if you are a fan of horror.

The Accountant (2016) Review

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Time: 128 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, Offensive Language
Cast:
Ben Affleck as Christian “Chris” Wolff
Anna Kendrick as Dana Cummings
J. K. Simmons as Director Raymond “Ray” King
Jon Bernthal as Braxton “Brax”
Jeffrey Tambor as Francis Silverberg
John Lithgow as Lamar Blackburn
Director: Gavin O’Connor

Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a mathematics savant with more affinity for numbers than people. Using a small-town CPA office as a cover, he makes his living as a freelance accountant for dangerous criminal organizations. With a Treasury agent (J.K. Simmons) hot on his heels, Christian takes on a state-of-the-art robotics company as a legitimate client. As Wolff gets closer to the truth about a discrepancy that involves millions of dollars, the body count starts to rise.

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The Accountant was a movie that interested me, mostly because of the cast, which consisted of Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons, Anna Kendrick and Jon Bernthal. Also the director, Gavin O’Connor, directed Warrior, which was a pretty good movie. So I was interested to see what The Accountant would offer. I was actually surprised by The Accountant, the direction, writing and acting were all great. It’s not a perfect movie, it’s got a couple of minor problems with the story, but they don’t really take away from the overall experience that I had with this movie. By the end of the movie, I wanted a sequel. I wanted to see this character again.

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I liked the writing of The Accountant for the most part. The first act was a little slow for me, and in that act I found some aspects of the plot hard to follow, it was mostly the accounting aspects that I was a little confused about. However, I loved everything else. It’s really a film that you need to be completely focussed on, it’s a very unconventional film in terms of how it tells its story, especially in how it integrates flashbacks into its story. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say this: everything is connected. Honestly, I don’t want to say a lot about this movie, it’s a film that’s better experienced if you don’t know much about it going in. One slight problem I have in the movie is that J.K. Simmons’s character’s story after a while, doesn’t really seem to matter in the grand scheme of the story and just gets dropped. I liked the story but it sorta ended abruptly. Aside from that and the first act, I have no problems with the story.

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Ben Affleck gives one of his best performances yet, he was very convincing as someone who is Autistic, which isn’t an easy thing to pull off. I don’t know how accurate his representation of an autistic person is, but with all his mannerisms, the way he spoke, everything, he was convincing at least for me. There was a lot to him, he was very likable, he was very capable and most of all, he was believable in the role. Anna Kendrick was also really good in this movie, I loved the interactions between her and Affleck, they played off each other very well. The supporting cast with actors like J.K. Simmons and Jon Bernthal were also excellent in their roles.

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The direction of the film by Gavin O’Connor is very solid overall. The film is shot very well, every scene was directed greatly and effectively. I wouldn’t say that this film is full of action, but when there’s action, it’s fantastic, its intense, it feels real. There’s quite a bit of it in the third act, making it so entertaining to watch.

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Aside from some aspects of the story which dragged a little or didn’t interest me as much as other parts, I loved The Accountant. The talented cast played their roles well, I loved the story, the action was great and mostly everything fits together in such a great way. I really do hope that we get a sequel to this movie, there’s definitely potential for it. I think it’s absolutely worth checking out when you can, it’s one of my favourite movies of the year.

London Has Fallen (2016) Review

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London Has Fallen

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence and Offensive Language.
Cast:
Gerard Butler as Mike Banning
Aaron Eckhart as Benjamin Asher
Morgan Freeman as Allan Trumbull
Alon Moni Aboutboul as Aamir Barkawi
Angela Bassett as Lynne Jacobs
Robert Forster as Edward Clegg
Melissa Leo as Ruth McMillan
Radha Mitchell as Leah Banning
Charlotte Riley as Jacqueline “Jax” Marshall
Jackie Earle Haley as DC Mason
Sean O’Bryan as Ray Monroe
Waleed Zuaiter as Kamran Barkawi
Director: Babak Najafi

After the death of the British prime minister, the world’s most powerful leaders gather in London to pay their respects. Without warning, terrorists unleash a devastating attack that leaves the city in chaos and ruins. Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) springs into action to bring U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) to safety. When Asher falls into the hands of the sinister organization, it’s up to Banning to save his commander in chief from a horrible fate.

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Olympus Has Fallen was a surprising action movie, it really was the Die Hard that we deserved in 2013 (and unfortunately was a better Die Hard movie than the actual Die Hard we got that year). However I didn’t feel like it needed a sequel and after seeing London Has Fallen, I can say that I was pretty much right. London Has Fallen is still enjoyable with reasonably fine action scenes and a pretty good cast involved. However, it definitely feels like a step down compared to the previous movie.

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Let’s get this out of the way, even if you cared about what happened in Olympus Has Fallen, you likely won’t care about what happens in London Has Fallen. Even though the previous film’s focus wasn’t really on the story, you could at least feel tension for what’s going on. The sequel tries to recapture it but it doesn’t really achieve it. The writing is significantly lesser in comparison, I can’t really describe it, it feels like its missing something, it was probably Antoine Fuqa’s direction from the first film, which really made the first film work. The humour and dialogue is also a little off. Overall though this movie is fine, it’s just really forgettable, typing this review out was hard actually because I was trying to remember what happened in the movie.

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Gerald Butler really worked in the movie, he was great in the action scenes and you bought him in this movie. I also liked Aaron Eckhart who was also really good in this film. I really liked how Butler and Eckhart played off each other, you can actually buy that they are friends. The acting in this movie for the most part is fine, nothing spectacular, nothing horrible, it just works fine. The villain in the first film worked pretty well for the film, the villain in London Has Fallen however isn’t interesting. He worked fine I guess, but there wasn’t anything compelling about him.

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This film definitely feels like it’s missing something, especially when compared to Antoine Fuqua’s direction for Olympus Has Fallen. The direction for the most part is fine though. The action is decent, reasonably entertaining but aren’t anything special. There’s not much tension and it feels more in line with a normal above average action movie (which is really what this movie is). The first film felt a little gritty, but aside from the blood there really is nothing gritty about Olympus Has Fallen. There are some moments which are noticeably CGI and fake. Direction wise this film was quite a significant step back from the previous movie.

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Overall London Has Fallen is entertaining but I’m not sure if I can call it good. I know that it’s a mindless action movie (much like the first film) but even so, the writing isn’t really good and the direction feels like its lacking. I think the main thing missing was Antoine Fuqua’s direction. He made the first film way better than it could’ve been. Still, the action in this film is fine enough and Gerald Butler was great so I can say that I enjoyed the movie. If you liked Olympus Has Fallen, you might like the sequel but know that it’s not as good as the first film. It was fine overall.