Monday, February 8, 2010

Movie Review: From Paris with Love

From Paris with Love ** ½
Directed By: Pierre Morel.
Written By: Adi Hasak based on a story by Luc Besson.
Starring: John Travolta (Charlie Wax), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (James Reece), Kasia Smutniak (Caroline), Richard Durden (Ambassador Bennington), Yin Bing (M. Wong), Amber Rose Revah (Nichole).

From Paris with Love is structured almost like a pop song – verse, chorus, verse chorus, etc. The verses in this case are scenes where John Travolta’s bald CIA agent makes jokes and says motherfucker a lot, while his new partner Jonathan Rhys Meyers looks flustered. The chorus are scenes where Travolta kills a hell of lot of people – using either his hands, guns or in one case a bazooka, while Rhys Meyers looks flustered. Yes, I would guess that Rhys Meyers looks flustered for a total of about 95% of his screen time in the movie. He is good at looking flustered however, just like Travolta is good at saying motherfucker, so From Paris with Love actually comes very close to being a good movie. From Paris with Love is one of those mindless action movies that have little in the way of plot or character development, but blows shit up real good. If you are expecting an intelligent spy drama, this isn’t it. But if you want some mindless escapism, I can certainly think of worse movies to see in theaters right now.

The movie takes place in Paris, as the title makes clear, where James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) works as an attaché to the ambassador. But that’s really just his cover. He is an agent for the CIA placed there to help – but most of his assignments consist of him changing license plates on getaway cars for other agents. He hungers for some action. When the agency sends Charlie Wax (John Travolta) to Paris to clean up some drug dealing terrorists, Reece gets his chance. He is partnered with Wax and his fiancée Caroline (Kasia Smutniak) seems surprisingly calm about her future husband’s line of work.

From the moment Wax arrives in France, he is a one man wrecking crew. Reece has to bail him out of customs, because the agents don’t want him to bring in his energy drinks, and he goes off on a rant. Soon, he is shooting up Chinese restaurants, and following one lead to another to another, and at each stop, Wax seemingly kills dozens of people singlehandedly. You would think the Paris police would be looking for this bald America killing everyone, but you’d be wrong. You would also think that drivers seeing this bald guy, hanging out the window of a speeding car holding a bazooka might pull over to the side of the road, and let him pass, but again, you’d be wrong. They just go on with their lives as if nothing is happening.

From Paris with Love is completely illogical if you sit down and think about it, which I would advise against. For one thing, you would think that CIA agents charged with wiping out drug dealers and terrorists would want to blend into their surrounding a little bit more than Wax does. But, if you just turn off your brain and go along for the ride, then From Paris with Love is actually an enjoyable action movie for its first two thirds. The dialogue is clever, and Travolta is having a blast playing this good bad guy, as he always does, and Rhys Meyers does what he is supposed to do. The action sequences, directed by Pierre Morel (Taken, District 13) is well handled and a hell of a lot of fun. The movie works for a hell of a lot longer than it probably should.

It’s only the last act of the movie that for me didn’t really work. The movie up until that point had little to no use for an actual plot (I still have no real idea how the drug dealers at the Chinese restaurant relate to everyone else, but I don’t really care). But in the last act, they try and add in double and triple crosses, and it doesn’t really work. You cannot go an entire movie with cookie cutter, one note characters and then expect us to care about them in the last act. It doesn’t work that way.

Overall, I would say that I enjoyed most of From Paris with Love. It’s not high art certainly, but it is entertaining trash. And sometimes, that’s enough. It is almost enough this time.

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