Gerard Butler, left, and Aaron Eckhart star in "London Has Fallen." (Grammercy Pictures/Focus Features)

Gerard Butler, left, and Aaron Eckhart star in “London Has Fallen.” (Grammercy Pictures/Focus Features)

On occasion, there are too many movies out that fit to print in The Citizens’ Voice and Standard-Speaker. For those times, Rebecca and Tamara will offer their takes on recently watched movies.

Today, Rebecca reviews “London Has Fallen” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

“London Has Fallen”: 3.5 out of 5 stars. In theaters.

Gerard Butler may be the best Secret Service agent ever. The action hero reprises his role as resourceful and relentless presidential bodyguard Mike Banning in “London Has Fallen,” the sequel to 2013’s superb White House-under-attack thriller “Olympus Has Fallen.” Though not as good as the original, “London Has Fallen” churns out a rollicking action film with hilarious one-liners from Butler and a strong dose of patriotism.

After Britain’s prime minister dies, the world’s leaders gather in London and find themselves the targets of an assassination plot by terrorists. As the city is destroyed around them, Banning jumps into action to do what he does best: protect President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and hunt down the vengeful terrorists. Along the way, Banning and Asher are helped by astute MI-6 agent Jacqueline Marshall (Charlotte Riley).

“London Has Fallen” starts off very slow as the film catches us up on the characters and the events leading to the convergence of the world leaders on London. It’s not as well-paced as the first film. But once the attack on London starts about 25 minutes in, the action becomes non-stop, punctuated by the graphic violence that was a hallmark of its predecessor.

London really does fall, and spectacularly so – there’s multiple landmark explosions with fire raining down, numerous exchanges of gunfire and an intense car chase through the crumbling city’s streets. The special effects are mostly good throughout the film, but there’s some iffy CGI along the way, especially during the opening of the attacks when London Bridge comes crashing down. Director Babak Najafi takes over the reins from “Olympus Has Fallen” director Antoine Fuqua, and as a result, some of the editing here isn’t as smooth as it was in the previous outing.

Banning and Asher’s journey through London’s underground tunnels is thrilling, a throwback to the White House tunnels in “Olympus Has Fallen.” The bombastic finale, which includes a riveting attempt at one long take, ratchets up the tension and action.

“London Has Fallen” takes itself seriously, and Butler spouts an unwavering belief in America and its ideals. But the actor knows he’s in a blow-’em-up, over-the-top actioner and revels in camping it up. He balances Banning’s relentlessness with bursts of humor, even taking time to tease President Asher. Eckhart himself has a few funny lines, and he shows more agency here than his president did in “Olympus Has Fallen.” Riley makes a good addition to the cast as a loyal MI-6 agent who has to make some hard decisions.

The outrageously entertaining “London Has Fallen” largely achieves what it sets out to do, loading up on action and offering mindless fun.

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“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”: 3.5 stars. Amazon streaming.

Ultra-stylish and smart, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is full of twists and turns. Director Guy Ritchie’s fast-paced and suspenseful spy thriller is a whole lot of fun, with dynamic performances from its three leads. This was a blast!

The throwback to 1960s spy films, based on the classic TV show, brims with crisp and intense action, as well as witty dialogue. Exciting set pieces include a wild opening car chase, an elaborate break-in, a speedboat chase and an all-terrain pursuit.
The gorgeous cinematography draws from a soft color palette, conveying a vintage feel that pays tribute to its ’60s setting. Slick editing, including an effective use of split screens, moves the action right along.

I’m confused by reviews that say “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is more style than substance. As glossy as Ritchie’s film is, the plot goes beyond a Cold War spy story to get us to care about the characters played by Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander and their relationships to each other.

The three have fantastic chemistry together. Hammer’s damaged KGB agent, Illya Kuryakin, is a fascinating psychological study as he deals with his anger management issues. The suave and sophisticated Cavill is a perfect fit as American thief-turned-CIA agent Napolean Solo. The ever-versatile Vikander shines as the daughter of a missing German scientist and has a very important role to play in the espionage proceedings.

As strong as its first two acts are, the spy caper’s third act is messy and feels disjointed. The movie loses the steam that it worked so hard to build up.

Despite a flawed finale, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is an artfully made and thoroughly entertaining addition to the spy genre. I would love to see a sequel.