From Paris With Love

What a quaint little picture this is. It’s an R-rated movie for the person you were before you were old enough to get in to R-rated movies. A throwback to a time when all an action thriller had to do was dispense with menacing minorities by the dozen, and all an American in Paris had to do was bed the willing women and remind the men who saved who in WWII. It’s the kind of movie whose failure to invest enough in any given supporting character probably will be explained, which is not to say justified, by that person turning out to be a villain very much in need of being blown away anyway. So, OK, bring it.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays a diligent junior-grade CIA man working in Paris as an assistant to the American ambassador (Richard Durden), resisting bourgeois domestic bliss with his randy French girlfriend (Kasia Smutniak), and yearning for the greater thrill of special ops. Then he gets the big break he wants, and deserves, in the form of John Travolta as an “unorthodox” American field-agent partner.

The trigger-happy Tweedledum to Rhys Meyers’ trigger-shy Tweedledee, this Travolta is bald and bodacious, complete with decorative goatee, hoop earring, gleaming .45, and a willingness to reference his own “Pulp Fiction” shtick that’s almost as shameless as the “Old Dogs” music video he made with his daughter. But judging by the look of blithe cogitation on his beefy face, as if he’s thinking only about how to spend his beefy paycheck, he’s quite delighted to lead the way through director Pierre Morel’s glib, cocaine-clouded cartoon bloodbath.

Adi Hasak’s screenplay credit notwithstanding, “From Paris With Love” quite clearly originates from a story by Luc Besson, and, in the self-conscious Eurotrash tradition of other Besson-Morel pairings such as “District B-13″ and “Taken,” amounts to just another ass-kicking, bomb-ticking, buddy-flicking potboiler.

“Tell me that wasn’t some impressive shit,” Travolta says after one of several ho-hum and apparently Cuisinart-edited action scenes. To which Rhys Meyers makes a helpless face for all of us.

At least “From Paris With Love” can not be accused of wasting time. The action unfolds in taut (if cheesy) scenes, and the plot makes quick work of answering (largely unasked) questions with more questions. For instance, when the time is right, it becomes rather urgently apparent that the nature of the partners’ mission is not as it seems. That is, it’s not really about the Asians and their drugs; it’s about the Middle Easterns and their terrorism!

Next thing we know, Travolta’s in a high-speed freeway chase, hoisting a rocket launcher from the back seat of his Audi and chirping “Come to daddy,” while Rhys Meyers whispers about love just before shooting somebody in the head. And so it goes.

Well, thanks for the post card, guys. Don’t wish we were there.

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