September, 2004, Thriller

Directed by:Paul Abascal

Starring:Cole Hauser, Robin Tunney, Tom Sizemore, Daniel Baldwin, and Dennis Farina

There may be nothing sadder, (nor more annoying) than a Hollywood B-movie with pretensions--especially one produced by Mel Gibson in which he takes the concept of family values to such witless conclusions. If audiences had reason to worry about the star's notions of morality in the wake of his gruesome take on the Crucifixion, (The Passion of The Christ) it's now time to become downright frightened by them.

First-time director Paul Abascal has been a part of Gibson's entourage since acting as the hairstylist on Lethal Weapon in 1987. Working from a script by neophyte Forrest Smith, Paparazzi traces the harassment of newly-minted action star Bo Laramie, (Cole Hauser) by a quartet of degenerate photographers determined to exploit Hollywood's latest screen celebrity for the tabloids. After intruding on Bo and his wife Abby, (Robin Tunney) at their only son's grade school soccer game, they crash a party to which the actor and his family have been invited and then race alongside the Laramie's car to snap even more "candids", causing a Princess Di-type auto accident that costs Abby her spleen and leaves their son in a coma. But they've pushed our hero too far; the soft-spoken cowboy from Montana decides it's not time to get mad--it's time to get even.

As a theme, revenge is almost as old as cinema itself; from Act of Vengeance to Zero Tolerance, there are literally thousands of titles in the cinematic archives devoted to this corrosive passion, proof of its appeal to both screenwriters and audiences alike. But wait a minute: celebrity pestering as justification for murder? The enraged Bo deliberately permits the demise of one of his pursuers, manipulates the death of a second at the hands of the police, then fatally bludgeons the third with a baseball bat which he subsequently uses to frame the fourth--all in the name of protecting his kin from unwarranted exposure. These grimly improbable proceedings are first witnessed--and ultimately endorsed-- by Detective Burton, (Dennis Farina) who provides a low-rent version of Peter Falk's Lt. Colombo in one of the worst parodies in recent film memory.   

The cameo appearances of Chris Rock and Matthew McConaughey, (along with one by Gibson himself) when combined with the burlesque-level performances of Tom Sizemore and Daniel Baldwin as two of the sniveling photographers might have made Paparazzi dark fun if the director had made a conscious attempt at black comedy; real celebrities finally getting even, if only fictionally, with those who make their living by exploiting the embarrassing moments of people who deliberately choose to live in the limelight. But there isn't an ounce of self-observant wit in these proceedings, just an hour and a half of cartoon characterizations and moronic posturing about the parasitic values of paparazzi, depicted here as the untouchables of photo-journalism. Absacal should return to his tonsorial skills in the future, while Hauser should select his next project more carefully or he'll wind up like his semi-famous father, Wings Hauser, who's made a name for himself as the uncrowned king of easily discarded, action-movie schlock. 

One wag suggests the title of this film rhymes with "try-to-not-see". He's so right.   


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