Review – One Cut Of The Dead


FILM REVIEWONE CUT OF THE DEAD. With Takayuki Hamatsu, Harumi Shuhama, Mao, Yuzuki Akiyama, Kazuaki Nagaya. Written by Shinichiro Ueda and Ryoichi Wada. Directed by Shinichiro Ueda. Unrated. 96 minutes.

OneCut-Poster.jpgA surprise box office sensation in Japan that has so far grossed a thousand times its budget at the box office, ONE CUT OF THE DEAD is an unexpected delight. I honestly didn’t think I ever needed to see another zombie movie for as long as I live, but director Shinchiro Ueda takes the genre’s oversaturation to giddy new levels of meta. It’s a movie about zombies attacking the set of a zombie movie, captured in a single unbroken shot by a daredevil cinematographer who at one point discreetly tries to wipe blood off the lens. Or at least it is until it isn’t, and since the movie’s entire premise pivots on a massive perspective shift about 40 minutes in, the spoiler sensitive should probably check out now and come back after you’ve seen the film.

Still here? Good. In a terribly amusing development, this ramshackle, tongue-in-cheek one-take chase picture abruptly ends at the 37-minute mark, complete with closing credits rolling after final girl Yuzuki Akiyama vanquishes her infected boyfriend and the dictatorial director who won’t stop filming amidst all the mayhem. Then “One Cut of the Dead” fades in again and flashes back to one month earlier, employing an entirely different shooting style to suddenly become a comedy about the making of the movie we just saw.

Turns out that the tyrannical filmmaker we were watching earlier (Takayuki Hamatsu) is actually a mild-mannered commercial videographer specializing in weddings and karaoke videos. He describes himself as “fast, cheap, and average” but the artist deep inside him is stirred by an offer from executives at the Zombie Channel. (I imagine there really are enough movies about the undead to run on a network 24 hours a day, or at least it feels that way.) They want to try out a live broadcast of a one-take horror flick, but every reputable director they’ve approached has had the good sense to turn them down.

What follows is an incredibly charming backstage farce, with our meek director trying to marshal a motley crew of pain-in-the-ass actors, lazy crew members and a sound guy with irritable bowel syndrome through what should be a logistically impossible shoot, taking out his frustrations in front of the camera by playing a filmmaker who says and does all the things he’d never dare. The project also provides a chance to bond with his prickly, perfectionist teenage daughter (one-named wonder Mao) and his stay-at-home wife (Harumi Shuhama) who quit being an actress after going so Method she broke a co-star’s arm.

Despite the opening salvos of splatter, “One Cut of the Dead” turns out to be terribly sweet, reminiscent of “Waiting for Guffman” and “Bowfinger” in the “let’s-put-on-a-show” spirit that animates these characters. The structural device of showing us the broadcast before we see how it was made allows Ueda to set up his punchlines way in advance, springing surprises we should have seen coming and garnering huge laughs from what’s just outside of the frames we’ve already watched. It’s a clever conceit brought off with a bouncy spirit and great camaraderie. The exuberant ending features a J-Pop cover of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” going behind the scenes of the behind-the-scenes footage to complete this most endearing cinematic hall of mirrors.•••

The Brattle in Cambridge hosts a one-night-only premiere of “One Cut Of The Dead” on Tuesday, September 17 @ 8:30pm.

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 4 out of 5.Over the past twenty years, Sean Burns’ reviews, interviews, and essays have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, Philadelphia Weekly, The Improper Bostonian, Metro, The Village Voice, Nashville Scene and RogerEbert.com. He stashes them all at Spliced Personality.

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Review – Hustlers


FILM REVIEWHUSTLERSWith Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer. Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria. Rated R for pervasive sexual material, drug content, language and nudity. 109 minutes.

hustlers_xlgIn telling the story of a group of strippers who decide to exploit the businessmen and power brokers who have been exploiting them – inspired, as we’re told, a true story – writer/director Lorene Scafaria takes what could have been a tired and predictable tale and takes it in unexpected directions. Scafaria wrote one of the best teen comedies of the decade (“Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) and wrote and directed the underrated “Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World.”

HUSTLERS begins in the middle of the last decade when Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) takes Destiny (Constance Wu of “Crazy Rich Asians”) under her wing, teaching her both the moves and the scams that let them rake in big bucks from Wall Street types who have money to burn. Destiny, who is now supporting her grandmother, eagerly takes to the lessons and makes a lot of money, but mostly in small bills.

Then the stock market crashes, and it looks like the gravy train is over. Ramona, however, comes up with a new scam where instead of waiting to be approached by some man, they’re going to pursue the patsies whose bank accounts and credit cards they’re going to drain dry. Joined by Mercedes (Keke Palmer, who has grown up considerably since “Akeelah and the Bee”) and Annabelle (Lili Reinhart of “Riverdale”), they cash in.

Scafaria mixes the laughs with serious characterizations, making Destiny the center of the story that she relates to a reporter (Julia Stiles) who wants to keep her talking about what happened as things went south. It turns out to be about female empowerment, as these women who are near or at the bottom of the social order decide to take control of their own lives. What they’re doing is unethical, immoral, and even criminal, but are their victims any better? Indeed, it’s when Destiny has second thoughts about one of their marks that the comedy starts to take a back seat.

Lopez is outstanding in a role different from much of her previous work. Ramona sees her ability to make money off of looking sexy is nearing an expiration date, and can be ruthless, yet she also shows compassion for her “sisters” heading in the same direction. It is her best performance in quite some time. Wu isn’t playing a total innocent – Destiny had worked at a prior club – but she’s ready to be Ramona’s apt pupil and, ultimately, her partner in crime. Palmer and Reinhart offer strong support, and those who only know Reinhart as the “good girl” Betty Cooper on “Riverdale” will see a different side of her as the stripper with a weak stomach.

Like Scafaria’s previous films, “Hustlers” takes you down a path that you think is familiar. By the time you realize it’s something different, you’ll already have been drawn in. Just keep your eyes on your wallet.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Satanic Panic


FILM REVIEWSATANIC PANIC. With Rebecca Romijn, Jerry O’Connell, Jordan Ladd, Ruby Modine, and Arden Myrin. Written by Ted Geoghegan and Grady Hendrix. Directed by Chelsea Stardust. No MPAA rating (but loaded with all the sordid things that make a movie appealing to anyone under 18). 85 minutes.

satanic_panicSome of horrordom’s most auspicious offerings have one foot planted firmly and stealthily in political commentary. The original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956) confronted head-on Cold War paranoia with its haunting pod people parable. At the conclusion of the Civil Rights Movement, George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) tackled race relations without tiptoeing. Joe Dante’s wickedly clever werewolf tale “The Howling” (1981) took on cults in the wake of the mass murder-suicides at Rev. Jim Jones’s compound in Guyana in 1978. In a similar punctured vein, the comedy-infused shockfest SATANIC PANIC aims for the fences, but, to quote a certain memorable ad campaign of days past, “Sorry, Charlie – only the best-tasting tuna gets to be Star-Kist.”

Sam (Hayley Griffith) sees her new job delivering pizza in the Dallas suburbs as her way out of poverty, but has a rude awakening when she is clotheslined by a humiliating hierarchy and customers who tip with expired Applebee’s coupons and sweaters formerly worn by the recently deceased. She thinks her streak is about to end when she brings a large order to an exclusive subdivision. The reality is basically the orgy scene out of “Eyes Wide Shut,” with Sam unwillingly serving as a virgin sacrifice to the demon Baphomet (the horned goat figure worshipped by Satanists). Hijinks ensue.

Just because it’s not great doesn’t mean it’s not fun. A hyperkinetic cross between Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby,” Brian Yuzna’s “Society,” and Jason Reitman’s “Juno,” this clever and creatively bloody cry to eat the rich builds to a manic pitch and doesn’t stop drilling until its satisfying end. It feels like it could have been conceived in the afterglow of a viewing of “Get Out,” substituting class division for racial divide.

The performances certainly elevate the material. TV actor Griffith is strong, rising to the verbal and physical rigors of the script by Ted Geoghegan (“We Are Still Here”) and Grady Hendrix (“Mohawk”). Her richie counterpart, Judi (Ruby Modine of “Shameless” and daughter of Matthew) is solid as her foil-turned-friend. “MAD TV” veteran and “Insatiable” star Arden Myrin plays a power-mad suburban mom with a side of whiny relish. But it is Rebecca Romjin (who passed her “X-Men” role of Mystique on to Jennifer Lawrence) makes the movie work, taking the role of ruthless coven leader Danica Ross to villainous heights. (Husband Jerry O’Connell has a considerably smaller yet hilarious role as her literally kept husband). She revels in Danica’s wickedness, taking what could have been a jokey vamp role and turning into one of memorable menace.

“Satanic Panic” surely makes a political statement, and while it is not one that is super timely, and while the movie may not show up on many annual “must-see” lists, it has a bloody good time playing it out, and with a sharp sense of what horror fans of a certain breed want to experience for their 90 minutes in the dark.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3 out of 5.Robert Newton is a veteran film critic, novelty recording artist, and Creative Director of the Cape Ann Community Cinema.

Review – It: Chapter Two


FILM REVIEW – IT: CHAPTER TWOWith Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Bill Skarsgård. Written by Gary Dauberman. Directed by Andy Muschietti. Rated R for disturbing violent content and bloody images throughout, pervasive language, and some crude sexual material. 169 minutes.

it_chapter_two_ver3Let’s start with the negatives. IT: CHAPTER TWO is the second half of the big screen adaptation of the Stephen King novel, the first half of which came out in 2017. It’s too damn long, it has scenes of gratuitous violence (as opposed to violence that’s necessary for the plot), and the plot mostly recapitulates the first film only now the characters are grown up. Yet for all that, it’s not dull, exploring both the bonds of friendship as well as how the horrors of childhood never really go away.

The movie picks up the story 27 years after the events of the first film, where the violent and malicious clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) has returned to terrorize the innocents of Derry, Maine. Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), who has never left, reaches out to his old middle school friends in the “Losers’ Club,” who have not only not remained in touch but don’t really remember their battle with the horrific Pennywise.

So we spend much time find out what has become of these characters since they were on the verge of adolescence, and it’s not pretty. Beverly (Jessica Chastain), for example, has traded an abusive father for a violently abusive husband.

They reunite, and Mike informs them that he has learned how to battle Pennywise, and it begins with each of them seeking a personal “token” out of their past. Each of the characters then gets to play out a scene where they relive the horrors of the past and experience new horrors in the present. Some are more interesting others. Bill (James McAvoy), who has never gotten over the guilt for death of his younger brother by Pennywise, buys his old bicycle from a shopkeeper who looks suspiciously like a certain Maine-based author of horror.

This eventually leads to the third act where the “Losers” wage a climactic battle with Pennywise. Unfortunately, despite making certain changes from the novel, there seems to have been a decision to incorporate multiple subplots that could have been discarded in order to speed up the proceedings. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the story of Henry Bowers (Teach Grant), a former teen bully who escapes from a mental hospital and becomes a secondary antagonist to the “Losers.” While the purists among King’s fans would have been disappointed by his absence, the character and subplot could have been discarded.

If there’s too much story here, there’s enough to keep us engaged, and director Andy Muschietti (who helmed the previous film) makes the most of it, mixing the scares and the psychodrama with some welcome humor, much it coming from Bill Hader as Richie, who has left Derry for a career as a stand-up comic. Hader’s mix of sarcasm and wry observations is a crucial addition to the mix. In a particularly strong cast for this kind of film, Hader emerges as MVP. He may not carry the film, but he makes a difference.

“It: Chapter Two” is a flawed film, but it is not a boring one. If you’re motivated to see it, you may be inclined to forgive its shortfalls. If not, you probably don’t need to see it at all.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – The Fanatic


FILM REVIEWTHE FANATIC. With John Travolta, Devon Sawa, Ana Golja, Jacob Grodnik, James Paxton. Written by Dave Bekerman, Fred Durst. Directed by Fred Durst. Rated R for some strong violence and language throughout. 88 minutes.

fanatic_ver2Given the swiftness with which formerly niche markets such as comic books and sci-fi/fantasy sagas have come to monopolize mass culture, the time couldn’t be more right for a movie examining the unsettling entitlement of contemporary fans. Emboldened by the mob mentality of social media, we witness almost daily eruptions from petulant, coddled customers making insane demands like that HBO re-shoot the final season of their favorite television program because they didn’t like how it ended, or throwing rape-threat-riddled hissy-fits because they’re traumatized by the sight of ladies using the Force or (god forbid) busting ghosts.

The film and television industry is no longer driven by movie stardom but rather pre-existing intellectual properties with built-in fanbases that claim ownership, expecting fealty and supplication from artists daring to work on what’s perceived to be their turf. Horrifying harassment campaigns against the likes of Leslie Jones and Kelly Marie Tran depressingly explain an awful lot about what’s wrong with our culture today, but of course THE FANATIC isn’t interested in any of that stuff and aside from the cell phones could just as easily have been made in 1988.

Directed by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, this strenuously unpleasant picture stars John Travolta as the Moose, a mentally ill hanger-on among the street performers of Hollywood Boulevard, spending his days fixated on collecting autographs and movie memorabilia. His favorite star is one Hunter Dunbar (great porn name!) a deeply unlikable horror staple on the downward swing of his career, played with a rather stunning lack of charisma by former child actor Devon Sawa. (This is supposed to be a semi-clever bit of casting because 19 years ago Sawa played an obsessed fan in the music video for Eminem’s “Stan” – a song so influential its title has entered the Oxford English Dictionary as a synonym for overzealous celebrity worship.)

His Hawaiian shirts clashing with loud print shorts and a tousled mop of hair he clearly cuts himself, the Moose is a whining, miserable figure, played by Travolta with an antic array of neuroatypical tics from across the spectrum and the emotional maturity of an eight-year-old boy. It’s a hammy, hyper-stylized performance and one that’s deeply uncomfortable to watch, foregrounding the character’s overbearing vulnerability in a manner that feels unbecoming for such a shallow exploitation picture. This isn’t one of those bad Travolta movies that’s a hoot like “Gotti” or “Speed Kills,” it just leaves you feeling icky.

After a couple of embarrassing encounters, the Moose ends up stalking Dunbar, awkwardly hanging around outside his house as we wait for the inevitable violence to occur. Written by Durst and Dave Bekerman, “The Fanatic” lifts entire scenes and sequences from Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” Stephen King’s “Misery” and even Tony Scott’s unintentionally hilarious “The Fan,” blithely unconcerned that these stories are now two or three decades old and all they’ve added to the equation is that Moose’s map to the stars’ homes is an iPhone app.

Directed by Durst in a slickly sheen of puke-flecked yellows and greens, “The Fanatic” has nothing new or of interest to say about celebrity culture. It’s devoid of subplots or colorful supporting characters, so we must just sit and wait for a sick, sad man and a rich, asshole has-been to harm one another. The gore is exploitative and gross, brought off with the dour patina of self-seriousness one might expect from an artist as dull-witted as Durst, who can at least take solace in the fact that no obsessed film fans will be stalking him after this one, unless they’re looking to get their money back.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 1 out of 5.Over the past twenty years, Sean Burns’ reviews, interviews, and essays have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, Philadelphia Weekly, The Improper Bostonian, Metro, The Village Voice, Nashville Scene and RogerEbert.com. He stashes them all at Spliced Personality.

Review – Apocalypse Now: Final Cut


FILM REVIEWAPOCALYPSE NOW: FINAL CUT. With Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper. Written by John Milius, Francis Ford Coppola and Michael Herr. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Rated R for violence, grisly images, language, some drug use and nudity. 183 minutes.

saigon-shitFrancis Ford Coppola’s magisterial, psychedelic monster “Apocalypse Now” has spawned four decades of arguments, think-pieces, and slack-jawed wonder. Is it a bombastic, mega-budget spectacle picture in the guise of a brooding, European art movie, or vice versa? Transplanting Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” to the Vietnam War, Coppola conjured a vision of madness on a scale we’ll never see again, during the years-long process nearly losing his house, his leading man, and his mind. In his wife Eleanor’s riveting 1991 documentary “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse,” the director famously (and somewhat tastelessly) likened his experience in the jungle to the United States’ doomed military incursion: “There were too many of us, we had access to too much equipment, too much money and little by little we went insane.”

Greeted with mixed reviews upon initial release, “Apocalypse Now” is now generally considered one of the greatest films of all time and you won’t find any argument here. But Francis still can’t seem to stop tinkering with it, his latest and purportedly “final” revision hitting home video this week after some scattered theatrical screenings. The 80-year-old legend’s twilight at the vineyard is apparently being spent in an editing bay, with a new version of his 1984 box office bomb “The Cotton Club” set to premiere at next month’s New York Film Festival, following semi-recent, rather annoying editorial exercises like a chronological re-cut of “The Godfather” films for HBO (similar to his 1977 mini-series edit for network television) or “The Outsiders: The Complete Novel,” which contained all the scenes he’d been wise enough to leave on the cutting room floor back in 1983.

The most acclaimed of these efforts, of course, was 2001’s “Apocalypse Now Redux,” which added 53 minutes to the 1979 film’s two-and-a-half hour running time, and while rapturously received by many critics the project was, to this reviewer’s mind, an act of vandalism. Coppola’s extensions and additions more than mucked with the original movie’s carefully calibrated, bad-trip pacing, they also sought to explain away its mysteries, shoving wordy bits of historical background into what worked best as a hallucinatory fugue state. Additionally, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro snipped the sides off the frames to fit the 2.1 Univisium aspect ratio he invented in 1998 as a compromise between the widths of movie and television screens. Don’t even get me started on that.

At 183 minutes, APOCALYPSE NOW: FINAL CUT splits the running time between “Redux” and the original 1979 edit, with a new 4K scan from the original camera negative, a remixed soundtrack for Dolby Atmos and thank heavens (or Storaro) it’s back to being presented in 2.35 CinemaScope again. As always, the film is an audiovisual powerhouse like nothing you’ve ever seen, and I often wonder what it is that makes these images feel so much heavier and larger than similar shots in conventional war films. The movie is simply massive in scope, ambition and balls. Whenever I’m done watching “Apocalypse Now” again, for the next few days other pictures seem puny.

Yet this “Final Cut” requires once again sitting through some of Coppola’s more perplexing additions, which aren’t as egregious as the ones in “Redux” but are diminishments all the same. The first and most frivolous is a scene in which Martin Sheen’s Captain Willard swipes a surfboard belonging to Robert Duvall’s fire-breathing Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore. I’ve never been able to buy the haunted, all-business Willard suddenly deciding to pull such a frat-boy prank, and his back-slapping bonhomie with the boat crew doesn’t fit the frayed hostility of their other interactions. (It’s like when Michael Corleone is cracking Tony Bennett jokes at the beginning of “Godfather III.” Who is this guy?) We’re thankfully spared the business of Kilgore begging for his board back that was such a groaner in “Redux,” but the entire episode still tragically undoes his “someday this war’s gonna end” departure from the original edit, one of the great character exits in movie history.

Most problematic is Coppola’s insane attachment to the notorious sequence in which Willard and the crew discover a family running a French rubber plantation near the head of the river, carrying on their colonial ways while willfully oblivious to the war around them. For starters the scene is in entirely the wrong place, shoved in following the hallucinatory freakout of the Do Long Bridge (“there’s no fuckin’ CO here”) and the killing of young Laurence Fishburne’s Private Clean by unseen assailants. “Apocalypse Now” is a journey upriver into abstraction, where we watch as structures and systems of order all collapse around us until everything is in ruins and we arrive at the Kurtz compound.

This chatty, civilized and seemingly endless dinner sequence that follows isn’t just out of place and all wrong for the movie’s mood, it’s bizarrely out-of-character for Willard. A few scenes ago we watched him shoot a wounded woman in the head because his mission is of such grave importance he doesn’t have time to take her to a medic. But now he’s cool with sitting down for a leisurely French meal before slipping upstairs to smoke some opium and get laid. What happened to “never get out of the boat?”

The ham-fisted dialogue attempts to introduce a late-game history lesson about the former French Indochina into a film that frankly isn’t built for it. “Apocalypse Now” isn’t a movie interested in geopolitical specifics, and Coppola has often been (not incorrectly) criticized for using Vietnam as a backdrop for his take on Joseph Conrad without fully reckoning with the conflict’s causes or casualties. I personally think such matters are outside the scope of the film, which attempts to deal with larger, more generalized existential questions in primarily visual terms. So suddenly stopping everything to let bit players jaw about the particulars over two hours into the movie does a disservice to all sides of the discussion. (Plus that egg metaphor is an eye-roller-and-a-half.)

Coppola claims that the initial release cut was truncated as a result of him panicking and trying to make the picture accessible to the widest possible audience, hoping to get some of his money back at the box office. But to me that’s always been the genius of “Apocalypse Now” – an undeniably strange and difficult art film brought of with the brio of a master showman. It’s troublingly, enormously entertaining movie on a grand blockbuster scale. Coppola’s continued attempts to revise and undercut his initial, towering achievement remind me of the speech in “Six Degrees of Separation” when the second grade art teacher explains that her students all seem like geniuses because she knows when to take the paints away from them. The first cut was the deepest.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3.5 out of 5.Over the past twenty years, Sean Burns’ reviews, interviews, and essays have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, Philadelphia Weekly, The Improper Bostonian, Metro, The Village Voice, Nashville Scene and RogerEbert.com. He stashes them all at Spliced Personality.

Review – Angel Has Fallen


FILM REVIEWANGEL HAS FALLENWith Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Danny Huston, Nick Nolte. Written by Robert Mark Kamen and Matt Cook & Ric Roman Waugh. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh. Rated R for violence and language throughout. 120 minutes.

angel_has_fallen_xlgIn “Olympus Has Fallen” (2013) and “London Has Fallen” (2016) Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) had to save the President of the United States from terrorist attacks. Now, in ANGEL HAS FALLEN, Banning and his wife (Piper Perabo) have a young child, and he’s been taking painkillers to deal with all the abuse his body has taken in his work. Near the film’s start, the current U.S. President (Morgan Freeman), tells Banning that he plans to make him director of the Secret Service.

Then the attack begins. As in the previous films it’s massive, audacious, and coordinated. The President ends up in a coma and, as the only other survivor of the attack, Banning becomes the chief suspect. No fair guessing how it turns out. Indeed, even before the big reveals it’s pretty obvious who the film’s real villains will turn out to be.

What the series offers is some top-flight actors fleshing out their melodramatic roles, including Jada Pinkett Smith as a relentless FBI agent, Danny Huston as an old friend of Banning who has set up a counter-terrorism camp, Nick Nolte as a recluse with ties to the agent, and Tim Blake Nelson as the Vice President. Nolte, looking like a bedraggled hermit, seems like he’s having a lot of fun as his character becomes enmeshed in the plot. (Make sure to stick around for the scene with Butler and Nolte in the closing credits.)

What’s really the point of the series is that it provides visceral and violent action, delivering plenty of jolts mixed in with a dash of humor. The body count is high with most of those shot or blown up as anonymous as characters in a video game. We can be fairly certain that Banning will live to fight another day but, be warned, not all of the principals make it to the end of the film.

Stuntman turned writer/director Ric Roman Waugh and his collaborators have constructed the film around several action set pieces, leading to a climactic showdown at the hospital where the weakened but now revived President chooses to trust Banning to protect him. We’ve seen such scenes in other films, but they kick it up a notch with some twists that keep it from being predictable. It does, however, keep with preposterous premise that drove the other films – that Banning alone can take on an entire army almost single-handedly.

Perhaps that explains the series’ success. Butler turns 50 this November so his on-screen derring-do may serve middle-aged wish fulfillment, but it also comes with a touch of realism in that his heroism has a cost on mind and body. “Angel Has Fallen” works as an action film but also as an opportunity for older viewers (like this reviewer) to pretend – at least for its two-hour running time – that “I could do that too.”•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.