Film’s emphasis on action distracts from a disappointing plot
February 11, 2010
Rated R action movies are becoming an increasingly rare commodity nowadays. The stylized violence and relentless swearing that once defined the action genre has been systematically watered down by profit-minded studios seeking a PG-13 rating. Whenever an R-rated action movie is released, I feel obligated to go see it. Someone needs to prove to the movie studios that there’s still an audience for the oldschool actioner.
Rated R for strong violence and pervasive language, it sounded like director Pierre Morel’s “From Paris with Love” had everything I was looking for in an action movie. But is it a return to the golden age of action cinema? Not quite. “From Paris with Love” is a mostly fun, yet ultimately forgettable, action/comedy saved only by the performance of its biggest star.
In “From Paris with Love,” wannabe secret agent Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) teams up with seasoned vet Wax (John Travolta) to bring down a terror cell operating in the City of Light. Although he is initially excited to work as a field agent, Reece soon discovers that the life of a spy is not as glamorous as he had imagined.
In many ways, “From Paris with Love” is similar to last year’s Liam Neeson vehicle “Taken.” Besides sharing the same director, both films were the work of screenwriter Luc Besson. Famous for films like “The Fifth Element” and “The Transporter,” Besson is no novice when it comes to action screenplay. However, as with “Taken,” “From Paris with Love” fails to contribute anything new to the action genre. As I sat watching, I couldn’t help but feel that I had seen this all before.
The most enjoyable aspect of the film is Travolta’s gleefully over-the-top performance. Nearly unrecognizable with a shaved head and goatee, he steals the show with his crass language and twisted sense of humor. It’s obvious that this was a fun character for him.
The same can’t be said of co-star Rhys Meyers. In contrast, he seems generally disinterested in his role. He’s adequate as a straight-laced foil to Travolta’s goofiness, but his lack of enthusiasm brings down the film’s mood far too often. You don’t go to an action movie expecting Oscar-caliber performances, but it should at least feel like the actors want to be there.
As far as the plot is concerned, it’s almost nonexistent. It has something to do with cocaine dealers financing terrorists, but it quickly takes a backseat to the action. Devoid of any larger meaning, the plot is concerned less with telling a story and more with providing situations for Meyers and Travolta to blow stuff up.
Such a strong emphasis on action isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, as I mentioned previously, the action is mostly standard fare. There’s a car chase, a few shootouts and some handto- hand combat, but it rarely feels fresh. Additionally, many of the action scenes are filmed in the oft-maligned “shaky cam” style propagated by the “Bourne” series of films.
Except as a cheap matinee, it would be hard for me to recommend “From Paris with Love.” Although Travolta’s performance is a treat to watch, the laughs just aren’t worth the full price of admission. You’re better off saving this one for a rental.
Michael Brun is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.