herr milflover s’éclate à Paris avec John Travolta – a review of From Paris With Love
Aah, Paris! The City Of Lights!
If the French thought they had it bad with terrorists in last year’s G.I.Joe, they better hold on because here comes Luc Besson with another one of his mindless action movies, and this time he’s bringing John Travolta with him!
Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as James Reese, the personal aide to the US ambassador in France. He’s an efficient, by the book man, happily engaged to the beautiful Caroline (the gorgeous Kasia Smutniak). He’s also a CIA operative, biding his time doing menial jobs like changing car plates for actual agents, waiting for the chance of being promoted to full-fledged field agent status. The opportunity finally comes when he is assigned the task of helping Special Agent Charlie Wax, played by Travolta. A seeming dream opportunity turns into a nightmare of a baptism of fire for Reese, as he follows Wax around on a mission that starts as a drug bust and quickly (d)evolves into trying to stop a nefarious terrorist plot.
This movie is pure Besson, perfectly in line with what he’s been producing for the last decade or so, which right there tells you if you’re likely to enjoy this one or not. Let’s face it, nobody watches Besson movies for intellectual, thought-provoking drama. The plot is thin and the big story twist is predictable, the action is violent and over the top, the one liners are plentiful and it never take itself too seriously. The movie starts a bit slow, but once Wax enters the fray, it’s near non-stop mayhem. Everywhere Wax drags Reese along, it seems there is some kind of gunfight, beatdown, crash or explosion that end up happening, giving us some cool scenes like Reese going up a spiralling staircase, ducking the many falling dead Asian henchmen Wax is disposing of one floor above him.
Director Pierre Morel, showing more of the promise he displayed helming Taken, helps hold it all together despite how preposterous it gets, keeping the action clear and easy to follow with minimal effects, giving hope that the overuse of shaky ‘BourneCam’ is finally dying down.
Much of the credit also goes to the cast, and by cast I mean Meyers and Travolta; everybody else – besides Smutniak- are little more than cannon fodder or story props. Meyers keeps things fairly grounded, portraying Reese as clearly in over his head amidst the hails of bullets he has to dodge alongside Wax and looking fine carrying a vase of blow, although I found him to be too emotionally restrained in the 3rd act. Surprisingly, it is Travolta who shines in a role he is clearly having fun with. Usually I have a hard time with his smarmy asshole acting/real life persona, yet somehow he is just perfect here, hamming it up shamelessly as the highly skilled, hot-headed pompous asshole Wax. Maybe it’s the bald head and goatee making him less ‘Travolta-looking’ than we’re used to, but it doesn’t come off as implausible to see him take out a gang of street thugs with his bare hands. He was a bit overdressed with the big coat and scarf, I’m guessing it was just to hide the fact that he’s getting fat in his old age, but it didn’t distract me from enjoying his performance.
From Paris With Love is definitely dumb and adds nothing new to the ‘mismatched duo movie’ scenario, but it is all quite ridiculously entertaining and a fun way to spend 95 minutes at the cinema, which is all anybody can ask for. I give it a solid 3 out of 4.