From Paris With Love

February, 2010, Thriller

Directed by:Pierre Morel

Starring:John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Melissa Mars



From Paris With Love


Two years ago Pierre Morel, a French cinematographer long associated with Luc Besson (that country’s most prolific writer, director/producer of yahoo action films) directed Taken, a blistering thriller starring Liam Neeson as a retired C.I.A. agent who pursues his teenage daughter’s kidnappers through the streets of Paris. That film’s plot was preposterous but (like Bruce Willis’ Diehard ) it had a potent mixture of compelling brutality grafted onto a storyline so accessible it was easy to get caught up in - - and as a result, it was a big hit at the box-office. In his latest, a low-rent rip-off of the James Bond franchise, Morel takes a Besson plot, and saturates it with blood and gore, but bad casting, an inexplicably complex plot and overly familiar action scenes tank an out-sized performance by John Travolta which, in better hands than Morel’s, might have produced a film worth the price of a movie ticket. Alas, this one’s not even renting when it limps into your locale Blockbuster franchise.


Travolta plays Charlie Wax, a goateed, abrasive loudmouth agent for the C.I.A. who descends upon Paris with orders to clean up a drug scandal involving the Secretary of Defense’s niece while also assuring that an upcoming international conference on the Middle East doesn’t become a prime target for a terrorists. He’s reluctantly paired with embassy employee James Reece, (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) a young Ivy League diplomat with exceptional language skills who longs to move out from behind his desk as assistant to the Ambassador and into the field where he can get involved in the down ‘n dirty aspects of international intrigue. Badgered and manipulated by Wax, Reece first helps kill off (literally) an entire Asian drug ring before discovering that the girl he’s about to marry may be part of the terrorist group that has set it lethal sights on that conference with all the Arabs attendees in such suspiciously flowing robes…


As Charlie, Travolta gets a chance to play one of those larger-than-life characters to be found in much of his most recent work, but the pairing with Meyers produces such imbalance it’s hard to keep a straight face throughout the movie’s nearly interminable 92 minutes. Meyers, an Irish actor with lots of film and television on his resume, appears equally fey and browbeaten and the climatic action surrounding his response to fiancée’s involvement is so incoherent it tanks everything which preceded it.


Our culture has many sources, but to what degree are films like this one, made abroad but intended for U.S. audiences, an accurate reflection of American values and ideals? Can we possibly be as xenophobic, paranoid and hubristic as Charlie and James? Has our cinematic taste for blood lust reached the point where we’ll spend good money for savagely-explicit trash? Are we as suspicious of Asians and the peoples of the middle east as this film so confidently assumes?


Answering those questions would be a much better way for audiences to spend their time than catching this embarrassingly inept piece of commercial junk.


The Verdict? A pox on all those involved in bringing this one to the screen.

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