It was an uneasy night. One with little sleep and a stomach packed with butterflies the size of Gerard Butler‘s shapely 300 quads. After all, it isn’t any run-of-the-mill weekend in which you get to spend a day with the famous Scot himself. I found myself still awake at 3am staring at the handwritten note I received from Mr. Butler on my doorstep the day before. The ink was like hot pink paint had dried in the desert and the paper was actually a broken shard of tempered glass. It read:
“Curtis Waugh. It’s me, Gerry Butler from Nim’s Island. I understand you’re a huge fan. Thanks for this. How would you like to live with Gods and slow-stab the enemies of freedom tomorrow? It’s gonna be magical as f***. See you at 10am.
P.S. You will get wet on this ride.”
I was a little worried at first that some psychopath had cut themselves open with a shard of glass and wrote this note in jest having seen the cardboard cutout of Mr. Butler I keep within sight outside my front door. Except this particular psychopath took a Polaroid photo of himself smiling ear-to-ear with the “note” in hand while seeming to have been chewing on a piece of it. It was undoubtedly Gerard Butler.
Also, he was going to find me? Sure. I mean, this is LA right?
I checked outside my curtain at 9:30am and didn’t see anything unusual, like Gerard Butler waiting for me. At 9:50am I walked outside my house and sniffed the air, as if I would be able to discern his musk wafting down my street. I waited, unsure if I should get in my car, stand at the curb or actually hide. Looking left and right and not seeing a soul, I checked my phone, the time now reading 10:00am. I turned to go back inside and immediately I was standing face-to-face with the Law Abiding Citizen himself, Gerard Butler.
“Oy! Did I scare ya?” he asked as I hit the earth, petrified.
“Mr. B-Butler…” I gasped.
“Call me Gerry,” he said with his crooked grin as he helped me back to my feet.
This is how I was introduced to Gerry Butler. I spent the next hour acclimating to being in his presence. He wanted to know if I was ready for the journey and then asked me to drive, so he could shoot. He said he was kidding. I couldn’t tell.
So we got into my ’05 Malibu and Gerry described to me what his intentions were with me on this day of days (while also detailing a weird, probably illegal way in which he is able to surveil his biggest fans. Hint: throw away your cardboard cutouts.): he would be taking me through, not to, his currently released blockbusters, Gods of Egypt and London Has Fallen. I told him I had planned to do this double-feature for weeks and showed him my ArcLight tickets.
“I know,” he said with a slick wink.
I continued to drive, taking his directions one at a time. We were going in a big circle. Eventually, we ended up back on my street and he told me to stop.
“Look in my eyes,” Gerry said in his Americanized Scottish drawl. I turned to look into his lake-blue eyes, “Tonight, we dine in…” I waited for him to finish his sentence. I leaned forward in nervous anticipation. Hell, Gerry. Just say ‘Hell’.
The wonder left his eyes and he very flatly said, “Egypt.”
And like that, my street was no longer my street and Gerry was no longer normal Gerry. I was surrounded by the brightest, greenest, goldest Egyptian landscape you could imagine. Gerry was gold-dusted tan and brooding through a suit of God-like armor. I spent the next two hours and seven minutes just outside the action as Nicolaj Coster-Waldau battled Gerry who was sometimes Gerry and sometimes a big CGI Egypt wolf-monster.
I noticed that Gerry had not really adopted a character but rather just tried to always be the most menacing man in the room, which honestly worked pretty well. Gerry sat beside me during bits he wasn’t needed in and ate doughnuts and drank Red Bull. The energy that was sucked out of the room each time he left was extremely noticeable. Gods of Egypt felt every bit like an adventure video game of get-this, push X, fight that, cut scene. Gerry’s hand-to-hand combat with Coster-Waldau was fun enough, but the CGI clutter and this world where any rule can come and go, drew out an already long process. Meanwhile, Alex Proyas laughed maniacally, clearly enjoying whatever he was doing and handed Gerry one of those large checks you win at a pro golf tournament. Good for you Alex, good for you.
Gerry laid the large check across his knees like a table. He broke a baggie filled with a white substance from his Egyptian skirt, three blue pixie stix and cracked another red bull. Gerry combined the two powders and added a dash of the energy drink, creating a thick, possibly fuming paste.
He looked at me and said, “You ready?”
Gerry face planted and inhaled the paste through both his mouth and nose.
“To save the f***ing President?” he said.
Either way, the Egyptian landscape melted away and became the barren streets of present day London. We were now in London Has Fallen and Gerry was now a slick government agent with a cannibalistic look in his eye. He looked over at his director, Not-Antoine Fuqua, who shook in fear at his gaze.
“Action,” Not-Antoine Fuqua said almost silently.
“You’re goddamned right,” Gerry said and looked at me like I never want to be looked at again.
For the next one hour and forty-ish minutes, I was assaulted by a barrage of bullets, blood, explosions, tin-eared xenophobia and jingoism. Not-Antoine Fuqua assured me his name was Babak Najafi (when Gerry wasn’t looking) and did an extremely admirable job of keeping the insanity flowing and doing the most with a script that is, at best, a barebones story.
Mike Banning-Gerry is one we’re familiar with from his stint in Olympus Has Fallen. For those hoping a sudden turn of conscience had surfaced in his character now that he’s an almost-dad, you’d be disappointed. Mike Banning-Gerry is only here to put up with the seriously ineffectual President (Aaron Eckhart) and slow stab terrorists in the heart. This Gerry goes so far off his rocker as to call our antagonists’ nation ‘F***head-istan’, decapitate a man using a car and a wall and make comments like, “I’m thirsty as f***”. And I sat there and watched with joy as Gerry gleefully performed it all.
The scariest thing about witnessing London is that there are swaths of people who will wrong-headedly root for Mike Banning-Gerry as though he is some sort of American Crusader. What might be scarier is that I was rooting for him as well! Is there a difference between rooting for the art and rooting for the actions at hand? Of course. London walks a very interesting line in that the events on screen are often so-heinous that it very well could feel irresponsible for enjoying the bloody moments. Still, there is a level of artistry here that isn’t to be denied. Najafi films the action cleanly and effectively, including one long-take scene (these have become the standard “look at me” moments in recent film, haven’t they?) through the streets of London during a shootout that is staggering in its intensity. London Has Fallen wants to be an insane actioner where Gerry gets goofy one-liners while committing war crimes. And he’s supremely entertaining! Is that ok? I can’t hate you for hating its tone-deaf approach but to deny its need to entertain and its ability to accomplish exactly what it wants isn’t to be argued.
Gerry looked at me after the credits rolled and I prayed the demon Banning spirit was gone.
“What did you say? Who are you talking to,” he said. I was nervous what he might do to me. Or if he was still on that coke-sludge.
“My readers,” I replied.
He side-eyed me. “What grade you gonna give the movies?”
Great. I looked for the nearest exits.
“And be honest,” he said.
“Ok.” Deep breath, “Gods was a C….. minus.”
Gerry nodded his head acceptingly, “And London?”
“B,” I said. He stepped closer to me and I could see the Banning monster lurking just beneath the surface, “Plus! B plus!”
“Excellent! Now, time for some putt-putt,” he said.
Gerry Butler whooped my ass in putt-putt and I dropped him off where I found him: on my own doorstep. “Hey, Gerry,” I had one final mystery needing solving, “I thought you said I was going to get wet on this ride? I’m bone dry.”
Immediately, Gerry Butler spit in my eye and punched me in the gut. He continued to smile as he turned away. I walked inside, tore up my cardboard cutout of King Leonidas and put an eBay bid on a Seth Rogen.
Go see London Has Fallen. Skip Gods of Egypt.