Double Review: Ready or Not & Angel Has Fallen

I was able to make a double feature of two of the four films to hit wide-release this past weekend, effectively soaking up an entire evening, and the two films could not have been more different. One of them is an original idea for a (satirical?) thriller that solidifies directing pair Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett (also known for V/H/S) as having something to say in the genre, and the other is a third franchise film that takes a step forward from it’s forgettable predecessor, but is also mostly just a rehash of the first film. Any guesses to which is which, and how I feel about them???
Ready or Not follows the Le Domas family and their fortune built on games. Great-grandpa Le Domas played a game on a ship bound for America with a strange fellow named Mr. Le Bail. Le Domas was promised that if he solved the puzzle box that Le Bail had, he would receive payment to start his business. And solve it he did. But the donation also came with a warning: Anyone who enters the family must play a game on their wedding night, determined by the very same box. A strange obstacle but sounds easy enough, right? Apparently, if the box delivers a fun game like mouse trap it’s just a friendly family game night! (you roll the dice, you move your mice…nobody gets hurt) But if the box directs you to play hide and seek…then the Le Domas family must work together to catch and sacrifice the newest family member before dawn, or else they all die! The plot is so far out there that it is, in fact, actually really good. I enjoyed this movie a lot, and the cast worked pretty well together to deliver alternating scenes of terror, comedy, suspense, and gore. What the plot does really well is hop back and forth over the line of “maybe this family is just crazy?”
Newlyweds Alex and Grace have the misfortune of pulling the one bad card, “Ready or Not,” from the box, and the game begins. Regardless, Grace (Samara Weaving, Home and Away, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) does a great job of playing the game as if her life depends on it. Her character is strong and goes through the very short transition that most of us in that situation would: from scared and hating your spouse for not telling you anything to doing what is necessary to win (a.k.a. survive). There are also several good one-liners in the movie and a handful of nice touches in the story including family traditions, character twists, incidental deaths, and the choice of violence. Plus it’s pretty funny that only like half of the family actually wants to be there, while the other half is either drunk, snorting cocaine, or watching YouTube videos on “how to use a crossbow” to make it through the night. The movie brings pretty much every family member’s character arc full circle by dawn and the final scene leaves a great taste on my film palate. The movie reminds me a lot of 2018’s hit comedy Game Night in it’s clever plot and the obstacles facing characters during the night, so if you saw and enjoyed that one, I recommend making time to see this one too!
On the other hand, we have Angel Has Fallen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a solid Gerard Butler fan. From 300 to P.S. I Love You, I enjoy his gruff, Scottish accent and I’ve seen most of his films. Having also seen the other two films in the Fallen trilogy(?), I figured I might as well give this one a chance. Couldn’t get much worse than London Has Fallen, right? (a film I actually forgot I had seen…yeah it was that bad, waaaay too much plot jumping) But maybe it’s time to stop going to see every film he puts out there. Olympus Has Fallen, the first film, wasn’t actually that terrible of a big dumb action movie, but it was both predictable and didn’t do much to round out the character of Mike Banning. And unfortunately this one followed in it’s footsteps. Except this time around you know who the bad guy is as soon as you meet him (partly because Danny Huston just looks like a shady dude), so the eventual reveal holds no weight. And then they try to make things more interesting by including a second bad guy, but his secret identity is also a little too obvious to matter. This one is almost like a weeknight movie on the Sci-Fi channel: A few actors you recognize in a screenplay that does them no favors.
Morgan Freeman reprises his character, except now he’s the President in danger (maybe I missed something, but what happened to President Eckart?!) and both Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and Nick Nolte (Mulholland Falls, Warrior) are added to the cast, introduced as the Vice President and Banning’s father. Banning’s job is wearing on him (again) and he’s considering retiring from the Secret Service (again) when there is an attack (again), except this time Mike is framed for being behind it (whaaaaa, that’s new). So he must work to evade capture by his own men and the throwaway federal agents who occupy too much screen time while also attempting to get back and warn the President of another attack on his life. There are plenty of cheesy action one-liners and disregard for proper law enforcement procedures…really the only great thing about this movie were the feeling the explosions in the Dolby theatre. So if you don’t plan on seeing this one in the AMC Dolby experience, just don’t bother. (Unless you’re a sucker like me for Butler films…) The second film both opened and finished with lower numbers than the first and this one appears on track to continue the trend, opening about even with the second film but losing steam fast.
And there you have it, one movie you should go see and one you should probably avoid! The summer movie season is drawing to a close with only one weekend remaining (I count Labor Day weekend as the official end of summer), so if you haven’t found the time to show a theatre some love, get out there and see something this weekend! Cheers!

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