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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16.67%
Worth A Look: 23.33%
Just Average: 23.33%
Pretty Crappy33.33%
Sucks: 3.33%

3 reviews, 12 user ratings

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From Paris with Love
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Royale With Cheese"
4 stars

“From Paris With Love” is a film that consists almost entirely of a series of loud, frantic and wildly over-the-top action set-pieces tenuously linked together by a storyline that is simultaneously impenetrable and expendable, characters that would require intensive rewrites in order to be upgraded to one-dimensional and an attitude towards the current geopolitical situation that suggests that if you are not a 100% WASP male, you are inherently untrustworthy and should probably be shot in the head just on general principles. In other words, it sounds as if it is just another brain-dead craptacular that assumes that viewers won’t notice or care just how lazy and graceless it is as long as there is enough sound and fury to temporarily distract them. What separates “From Paris With Love” from those other films is that it has been made with a great deal of style, energy and personality and it is precisely those elements that make it one of the more entertaining and engaging pop entertainments to come along in a while despite its excesses and even because of them at certain points.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays James Reece, an attaché to the American ambassador in France who also moonlights as a spy-in-training for a clandestine government agency that never quite gets around to calling itself the CIA. Although most of his missions are lacking in the excitement department (although things do get a bit dicey when his attempt to attach a listening device in a diplomat’s office with a piece of gum goes hinky), his efforts eventually win him a promotion of sorts when he is asked to meet super agent Charlie Wax (John Travolta) at the airport and escort him around on a top-secret mission. Inevitably, Wax turns out to be a bold and brash shoot-first type, in marked contrast to his new partner’s more orderly approach and demeanor, and before long, he has the two of them hurtling into a misadventure that goes from them busting up a ring of Chinese drug dealers to trying to stop a group of Pakistani terrorists from pulling off a suicide bombing at the American embassy. Exactly how the story goes from the drug dealers to the terrorists is, I fear, a question for another day--there is a scene in which things are more or less explained but since the characters involved in the discussion are somewhat impaired at this point (for reasons that I will leave you to discover), it basically exists to prove once and for all that such scenes in movies of this type will always be more or less irrelevant and are generally only noticed when the rest of the film isn’t working.

“From Paris With Love” is the latest effort from Luc Besson, the seemingly inexhaustible French filmmaker who announced his retirement from the cinema in 2006 and has since, according to IMDB, been involved with producing no less than twenty different projects, eight of which he co-wrote and three of which he directed (and I am not even counting the six additional productions said to be in development). For this endeavor, Besson has limited himself to producing and writing the original story and has left the direction in the hands of Pierre Morel, the one-time cinematographer with who he previously collaborated on the cult favorite “District B-13” and last year’s surprise smash “Taken.” That said, it is still a Besson film through and through and contains most of the elements that have made his productions among the most consistently entertaining action extravaganzas currently being produced--a eye for unusual locales (including a clothing sweatshop and an apartment complex centered around a winding staircase, crackerjack fight choreography and editing (though the film admittedly leans a little more towards the latter this time around) and weird bits of humor that crop up in the most unexpected places (such as the cascade of bodies that come down that winding staircase of the course of one scene). What really sets Besson’s productions apart from other blockbusters is the heedless energy and contagious sense of fun that they contain--at a time when most films of this type are made by people spending millions of dollars in a cynical attempt to recreate what is going on in the head of a 12-year-old action junkie, his films feel more like they have been made by a genuine 12-year-old who has just been given millions of dollars and the world’s most elaborate train set to play with. It may not sound like there is much of a difference between the two but to these eyes, Besson’s approach has a purity of vision that is far more entertaining to experience than such committee-designed dross as “Transformers” or “GI Joe.”

One of the things that helped make “Taken” one of the more memorable entertainments of last year was the unexpectedly strong central performance from Liam Neeson in the kind of role that few would have expected him to pull off as well as he did and in a strange way, John Travolta does much the same thing for “From Paris With Love.” Yes, he is chewing the scenery in ways that haven’t been seen since he strapped on the platform boots to star in “Battlefield Earth” and yes, the sight of Travolta overacting can be cringe-inducing. And yet, even though his performance as the bald and bold adrenaline junkie secret agent (imagine Vin Diesel in “XXX” a couple of decades down the line) is as over-the-top as one could possibly imagine, it fits the wildly over caffeinated proceedings like a glove. More importantly, he is clearly having a blast playing a full-blown action hero and the sense of joy he is experiencing doing something so unapologetically goofy becomes contagious after a while--it may not go down as one of his great performances but it may be one of his most entertaining. As his straitlaced partner, Jonathan Rhys Meyers has the thankless task of playing the straight man to Travolta’s walking, talking and shooting Id but he gets a few moments here and there where he is allowed to shine, such as the aforementioned bit where his attempts to plant a bug lead to some nice physical comedy. Then there is Kasia Smutniak in the even more thankless, for the most part, role of Meyers’ infinitely patient girlfriend--she doesn’t have much to do for long stretches of the film but she has the kind of great smile and winning personality to make one wish that they could spend their entire life inside a French movie, even if she is actually Polish in real life.

Okay, so maybe “From Paris With Love” isn’t exactly a masterpiece of its genre or even as consistent as “Taken”--the bad guys and their motives are so indifferently sketched as to be non-existent and the sight of the white male heroes gunning down literally every overtly ethnic type gets awfully tiresome after a while (imagine the Arab swordsman gag from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” repeated 137 times in a row). However, while it may not be a great movie by any means, it is a very entertaining one and even those who have grown increasingly burned out by the overblown action spectacles of late may find themselves responding to its fluky and funky charms. It maybe be cinematic junk food at its core but like the best junk food, it goes down so well and tastes so good that those with a taste for such things will find it irresistible.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18563&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/05/10 00:00:02
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User Comments

3/03/13 sam lame action flick.. 2 stars
4/07/11 Josie Cotton is a goddess This acion/"comedy" ould have used some humor 2 stars
1/03/11 mr.mike Just saw John T. at the bank , cashing his paycheck. 3 stars
11/10/10 shootkillshootkill hell yah thats why this movie rocks but it can use even less sidekick tho 5 stars
11/05/10 tex so, charlie actually gets off on seeing the other guy beating up that dude in the ghetto??? 5 stars
10/03/10 Jeff Wilder Not bad. But not that good either. Travolta's cool. But it's too damn routine overall. 2 stars
9/22/10 sunny day You Americans should be glad that we view you as rampaging maniacs with a killing disorder. 5 stars
8/17/10 bored mom Story sucks, but hey, Wax is an obnoxiously funny mass-murdering crack-addicted psychopath. 4 stars
8/01/10 blurverve I thought it was entertaining 5 stars
6/15/10 Roy Smith It's the War of Terrorism as Grand Theft Auto. Not very bright. 2 stars
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  05-Feb-2010 (R)
  DVD: 08-Jun-2010


  DVD: 08-Jun-2010

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