Film reviews: Hail, Caesar!, London Has Fallen

Loaded's verdict on the biggest new film releases of the week.

Goblet danger Hail, Caesar! sees Clooney's Baird Whitlock get drugged by an extra.

Hail, Caesar! 
Running Time: 106 minutes

They love a good long-winded approach to story telling, those Coen brothers, and their latest offering also takes you on some winding routes to unexpected destinations.

Set in 1951 in Hollywood, Hail, Caesar! veers on and off between being a condemnation and a celebration of Tinseltown, placing real-life fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) at the centre of the tale. Mannix was a sort of Max Clifford (before that all got unpleasant) of early Hollywood, spending his day quashing nasty rumours and keeping stars in line.

The Coens’ version of events sees Mannix run the fictional Capitol Studios of the 1950s, and scandal follows his stars around like an unpleasant odour. There’s Scarlett Johansson’s DeeAnna Moran, the starlet who manages to get herself pregnant, and Ralph Fiennes’ brilliantly over-the-top director Laurence Laurentz, who is demanding to say the least. Fiennes’ performance is the highlight of the film, especially when trying to iron out the muffled speaking tones of singing cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich).

The most obnoxious of them all is Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the A-list star who manages to get kidnapped from the set of his latest blockbuster Hail, Caesar! Mannix is issued with several demands from kidnappers calling themselves The Future, who want $100,000 to secure Whitlock’s safe return.

In typical Coen style, the film is overflowing with separate storylines which somehow manage to link together in some form by the the end. Still, with so much going on, some roles seem massively underdeveloped, in particular Johansson’s DeeAnna Moran who certainly could have had more airtime.

Cameos are as plentiful as the storylines, with Jonah Hill, Agyness Dean, Channing Tatum and Tilda Swinton making welcome appearances.

Overall, it’s a laugh out load offering, overflowing with satire, highlighting the workings of old Hollywood while simultaneously smashing apart illusions of glamour still associated with it.

Undoubtedly helped along by its stellar cast, Hail, Caesar! is yet another Coen Brothers hit, bound to be hated by those who despise them, which is just how they like it. But it’s not quite a vintage Brothers comedy to rival Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski or The Hudsucker Proxy.

Hail, Caesar! is out on Friday in the UK.

Jennifer O’Brien


London Has Fallen (15)
Running time: 99 minutes

Gerard Butler in London Has Fallen
Beating rush hour A gun-wielding Gerard Butler storms through the underground. Image Picture Lionsgate

Olympus Has Fallen was that rare beast – a Gerard Butler movie that wasn’t eye-gougeingly terrible.

It was the kind of everyman-against-terrorists action flick you wanted all the recent Die Hard sequels to be. The fact it’s spent the last two years seemingly lodged on everyone’s ‘Netflix recommends’ bar only amped up the appeal.

Normal Butler service is resumed in the half-arsed sequel London Has Fallen, though. This takes the action out of the White House and to the streets of London.

The death of UK Prime Minister Clarkson (a terrifying thought…) brings world leaders to the capital to mourn. In an entirely expected plot twist, it’s all a ruse for a mass assassination attempt by Middle East terrorists. Caught in the crossfire is Butler’s Secret Service agent Mike Banning and President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart).

In fairness, London Has Fallen does manage to deliver all the stab-heavy fight scenes and ridiculous one-liners of the first film. “I’m thirsty as f**k,” Butler bellows before taking massive a gulp of water in what feels like a bizarre product placement for Thames Water.

This is all good in an undemanding switch–off–­­your–brain action movie way, but the film leaves a bad taste in the mouth thanks to its ‘Did-he-just-say-that?’ xenophobia. At one point Banning tells a foe to “go back to F**kheadistan”.

This nasty streak runs through the entire thing, and when the rest of it is such a boilerplate punch-‘em-up, it’s not really worth bothering with.

Spare a thought for acting heavyweights Morgan Freeman, Jackie Earl Haley and Melissa Leo, who are stationed in a war room offering up various different expressions of concern. Leo – an Academy Award winner – doesn’t even have a noticeable line of dialogue. Still, at least it’s an easy paycheck.

Simon Reynolds

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