Travolta saves Paris
For a spy movie paying homage to a classic James Bond title, there's surprisingly little intrigue to be found in From Paris with Love.
On the other hand, there's a whole lot of Travolta, whose gleefully over-the-top performance saves an otherwise hackneyed action thriller from its unfittingly serious devices.
Like director Pierre Morel's previous effort, the enjoyably intense Liam Neeson thriller, Taken, Paris has that same adrenaline-fueled pacing and punch-you-in-the-eye action, but suffers from somewhat of an identity crisis.
Though packed with Neeson bad-assery, Taken took itself seriously, and it worked. The screenplay fit the bill. Paris, however, seemed muddled from its very first trailer, confused between being an action-comedy, espionage thriller, or simply a vehicle for John Travolta to try out baldness.
Turns out it's an unfortunate combination of the three, a disjointed story that never establishes its footing, striving to be serious when its humdrum writing is anything but.
Adapted from a story written by the talented Luc Besson (The Professional, The Fifth Element), Paris stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers (TV's The Tudors) as U.S. ambassadorial aide James Reece, a young American in Paris who prefers his second job moonlighting as a low-level CIA operative.
Tasked with relatively low-risk jobs, such as switching license plates off cars and planting listening devices, Reece hopes to prove himself and secure an agent position. Freshly engaged to the beautiful Caroline (Kasia Smutniak, Barbarossa), Reece finally gets the call of his dreams - an opportunity for promotion, provided he completes one more job.
That job is to retrieve agent Charlie Wax (Travolta), detained in airport customs, and drive him throughout Paris to complete an assignment. Wax, however, does not fit Reece's idea of the classic spy. Though no doubt a professional, he's loud, obnoxious and dangerously volatile, and within hours of their meeting, Reece begins to learn that not everything is as it seems.
When Wax decimates the gun-toting staff of a Chinese restaurant used as a drug smuggling front, Reece has no choice but to tag along and see the mission through, though he - and the viewers - have no idea what this mission entails.
As the two follow the drug trail through the Parisian underworld, Wax leaving countless bodies in his wake, it becomes evident that something much more sinister is afoot, namely a terrorist plot to attack a U.S. delegation. Furthermore, Reece discovers that he, too, is a target, and that sticking with Wax could be his - and the delegates' - only hope.
Like Taken, the action is abundant and, for the most part, well-choreographed, though Paris leans more toward style than outright effect.
Refreshingly, computer-generated special effects play a very little role, with Morel opting for effective stunt-work and pyrotechnics over cartoonish visuals. Though this lends Paris a sense of grit, its B-movie dialogue (delivered with an inappropriate gravity) and contrived plot devices contribute to an overall lack of cohesion.
The writing just doesn't add up and is, at many times, simply laughable - like the U.S. head delegate brazenly disregarding warnings of a terrorist attack, not even questioning the possibility, or Reece's supposedly heartfelt negotiations with a potential suicide-bomber.
Travolta, however, purposefully delivers laughs. He revels in his role, obviously having a blast as Charlie Wax and enjoying the opportunity to cut loose. But it's an opportunity seemingly missed on everyone else, taking From Paris with Love from sweet nothing to just nothing.
From Paris with Love, rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, drug content, pervasive language and brief sexuality, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.