Thursday, February 4, 2010
Review: "From Paris with Love"
"From Paris with Love" is a dumb, violent movie, but it knows it. It doesn't take itself seriously, and features John Travolta in a performance of such impish glee, he's obviously enjoying chewing on the scenery so much he should have paid the filmmakers for the privilege, rather than the other way around.
It's such an adrenaline-filled, kooky kick that we don't mind that the plot makes hardly a lick of sense. Sometimes, boys just want to have fun.
Travolta plays Charlie Wax, an American spy sent to Paris do some clean-up work. And to someone like Charlie, getting things clean is a very messy process.
With a shaved head, goatee, gawdy earring and omnipresent keffiyeh and leather jacket, Travolta strikes quite an outlandish figure. The only thing more over-the-top is his behavior. Charlie's M.O. is shoot first, shoot second, and keep on shooting until your problems go away.
In one scene, Charlie goes into a Chinese restaurant looking for cocaine. He takes out his gun and starts blowing away waiters, and finally shoots holes in the ceiling, where streams of powdered narcotics start cascading down.
Who keeps cocaine stored in their ceiling? How did Charlie know it was there? If you're the sort of person who can't help but wonder these things, then this movie is not for you.
Charlie's reluctant partner is James Reece (John Rhys-Meyers), a young up-and-comer sick of his cushy duties acting as the American ambassador's secretary. He can't believe the way Charlie operates, and would rather be spending time with his cute French girlfriend Caroline. (She's French, so it's pronounced "karo-LEAN.")
Charlie clearly enjoys getting a rise out of James, so he does all sorts of crazy things to put them in danger, just so he can save their bacon. In one scene, he takes out an entire gang of drug dealers, then turns to James and thunders, "Tell me that wasn't some impressive shit!"
Based on a story by Luc Besson (who also produced) by screenwriter Adi Hasak, "Paris" was directed by Pierre Morel, who impressed with last year's "Taken." The characters played by Liam Neeson and Travolta couldn't be more different, nor the movies in which they are showcased. Whereas Neeson's ex-spy was a lesson in controlled lethality, Charlie is a giggly killer who really, really likes what he does.
At some point, the story turns from one about drugs to terrorism -- and it occurs just that abruptly. Charlie yells something like, "This isn't about cocaine, it's about terrorists!" And then they start chasing Middle Eastern-looking guys who are plotting to blow up something important.
One moment I have to comment on: At one point a character reveals themselves to be wearing a suicide bomb. In close-ups of the plastic explosives and wiring, you can clearly see a triangular sign in yellow-orange that says, "CAUTION." Now, what kind of terrorists put warning labels on their suicide vests? "Hey, we better let them know, since we don't want anything bad to happen."
I admit I went into "From Paris from Love" thinking it was going to be a supremely stupid movie. I was right, but didn't imagine how much fun idiocy could be.