Angel Has Fallen (15)****

Director: Ric Roman Waugh

With: Gerard Butler, Danny Huston, Morgan Freeman

Runtime: 121 mins

The battle of the Die Hard in the White House movies that came our way in the summer of 2013 was handily won by the gleefully violent Olympus Has Fallen over the more lightweight but ultimately rather tepid White House Down.

A bloated and overblown sequel followed in which London fell but, remarkably, things have picked up considerably for this third go round for Gerard Butler’s Secret Service agent Mike Banning, protector of presidents and righter of wrongs.

In an unusually lengthy and talky setup period, Banning is revealed to be popping pain meds and struggling with his creaking body after years of being shot and punched.

There’s also the matter of the Service director’s imminent retiral, and the possibility of Mike taking over from him.

To make sure the expectant audience hasn’t already walked out by this point, the movie does in fact open with a good deal of stylishly filmed shooting and punching, a scenario which turns out to be, in the first of several surprises that aren’t really surprises at all, just a training session for Mike and his military buddies.

Here we get to meet his old pal Wade (Huston, who, let’s face it, has never not played a shady character) before we’re soon on to an extremely well executed sequence which sees the President (Freeman) attacked with drones, leaving all his Secret Service team dead bar Mike, who ends up framed for the attack and on the run.

This sets us up for some genuinely exciting fugitive antics as Mike tries to clear his name. Chases, shootouts and explosions are directed with a skill and clarity uncommon in the genre, and it’s rare for an initially dumb franchise to come full circle politically from borderline fascist to being actually concerned with the direction America is taking.

As a performer, you know where you stand with Butler, but there’s something a bit extra here, like he knows as well as Mike does that he may not have too many more of these left in him.

So let’s enjoy the nonsense while we can, and do stay in your seats once the film ends, because there’s a mid-credits scene that truly is something to behold.