From Paris With Love

Directed By Pierre Morel

Starring John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and no one else worth mentioning

Wow, this movie stinks.  I was first introduced to this movie’s driving force, co-producer and co-writer Luc Besson in the 90’s with the incredible Leon: The Professional.  That movie is a standard by which many action movies are measured.  I went back and watched (La Femme) Nikita, which was similarly impressive.  Since then, he has done The Fifth Element, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, and written and/or produced a ton of other mid-range action hits like The Transporter, Taxi, Hitman and Taken.  Nothing all that great, but he makes a lot of guys happy when it’s not football season.  Besson is known for coming up with stories in an incredibly rapid pace.  Supposedly he came up with this one in about a half-hour.  That’s about 23 minutes more than it took me to write the script in my head from opening credits.

As a personal aide to the American Ambassador to France James Reese, Jonathon Rhys Meyers has a beautiful French girlfriend and is moonlighting as an entry level CIA hack.  He gets assigned to him a brash, crazy and intense new partner named Charlie Wax, whose slogan, we learn early on, is “Wax on, Wax off.”  Fascinating.

They shoot up an Asian restaurant, finding bus hops and cooks packing uzis, and then force the lone living waiter to reveal that the cocaine is in the…ceiling.  Que the machine guns blasting the ceiling away, grab a vase and then collect some of the poured out cocaine.  Then for some inexplicable reason, Wax has Reese carry this vase around, looking first for cocaine dealers, then prostitutes and then, surprise, terrorists!  Meanwhile, Wax kills just about everyone they meet, while Reese, still holding the vase, complains.  Then Wax has Reese sample some of the stuff, to, you know, clear the senses.  Exciting stuff.

So they are now running around, killing terrorists in an apartment building and, hey, why did Reese see his girlfriend as he was getting in an elevator?  I thought she just made Muslim looking clothes…oh well, we can just have dinner with her and her Pakistani woman friend later that day, like nothing ever happened.

I liked John Travolta best in the movie Get Shorty.  He played Chili Palmer as a simple, yet intelligent guy who loved movies, but understood most of the bad guys around him were trying too hard to act like something they weren’t, and he just moved right through them.  He has not played a character with half as many notes since then.  Michael and Phenomenon were good movies, but there have been too many films like Broken Arrow, Face/Off and Taking of Phelam 123 since that movie.  This one note character who always seems to be one step ahead of the opposition seems a response to the Vinnie Barbarino / Vincent Vega persona that had him a day late and a dollar short.  The more movies he makes like Paris, the more I think that Get Shorty was a fluke.  Even its own follow-up, Be Cool, failed to capture the same magic.  Travolta could make much money for the rest of his career playing opposite guys like Nicholas Cage, but it would still be far short of his potential.

Rhys Meyers has shown some intriguing potential himself, with his complex turns on The Tudors and August Rush, among others.  He usually seems to be holding something back in his performances.  A secret shame, pain or desire.  This time, though, his performance is one track and totally open.  This belies the porn star mustache that he sports for the film, which has a really comical effect on the movie.  He looks like a kid, trying to pass as an adult.

The action is fast, frenetic, and ultimately forgettable.  This movie is a must only for action junkies who need to watch, even if they feel bad afterwards.

(*1/2 out of *****)


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