Lionsgate // 2010 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // June 14th, 2010
Two agents. One City. No Merci.
From Paris with Love is a seriously dumb film. Coming from the Luc Besson action factory (Taken, The Transporter), that's not exactly a surprise, but what does intrigue is just how bearable this brainless mess is. Directed with a characteristic lack of subtly by Pierre Morel, From Paris with Love works from an obvious story; but thanks to two decent lead performances and a torrent of overly enthusiastic shootouts, it actually passes the time in a bizarrely tolerable fashion.
James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Mission: Impossible: III) has a high profile job as aide to the US ambassador for France and a loving girlfriend (Kasia Smutniak, Goal 3), but also secretly moonlights as a low level CIA operative in a bid to further his career. After he executes a series of mundane but important tasks competently, the CIA give Reece the chance to see a little more action, pairing him with a crazed special agent called Charlie Wax (John Travolta, Hairspray). Wax has been sent to Paris to obliterate an Islamic terrorist threat, and as he and Reece move through the city it becomes obvious the former has a unique and aggressive manner when it comes to his job.
The biggest selling point Morel's movie boasts is its sheer bravado, the film actively seeking to be as ridiculous and overblown as possible. Everything from Travolta's hammy acting to the frantic set pieces add to a sense of overpowering silliness, but the movie seems content to boast such a tone for most of its duration. From Paris with Love is indeed a stupid film, but it seems fairly aware of its excessively mindless style, and amidst the idiocy there is some genuine fun to be had.
Travolta is in full throttle bonkers mode here, rattling off F-bombs and twitching with ferocious aplomb; the performance is reminiscent of his disastrously overcooked acting in last year's The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 remake. However, this time the actor's extreme performance feels more comfortable and suited to the picture at hand; after all, Travolta's nutty thesping is only one of a million bombastic elements featured in From Paris with Love. Rhys Meyers plays off Travolta quite well (he's fully aware of to whom this show belongs) and whilst rarely charming he does display some restrained straight man quality. That said, the Irish actor provides a thoroughly heinous American accent.
The film moves at a rapid pace, rarely staying still in any one location for more than a few moments. The story at hand might be quite weak, but at least Morel has the sense to play it out in the most energetic fashion possible. The action is bloody and showcases a taste for the ludicrous; sequences involving the ingestion of cocaine and the reckless use of a bazooka are particular highlights. Most of the gun fights are fairly generic, but they're fast paced and crazed, leaving audiences little time to breathe as they play out on the screen. From Paris with Love also opts to focus on the dingier side of Paris, nestling itself in amongst dilapidated apartment structures, prostitute rings, and seedy street gangs. This complements the R-rated aesthetic and design that Morel and Besson are devoted to, and provides the motion picture with a surprisingly realistic visual palette.
Ultimately it is important to note that From Paris with Love isn't a good film. The dialogue is atrocious (most of the one liners are genuine clunkers), the plotline pure formula, and the finale utterly laughable. The conclusion is dependent on audiences having become invested in a romantic subplot that permeates most of the picture; sadly, Morel mishandles that facet of the production completely. I can't really bring myself to recommend the movie as a rental. It's the sort of action flick that isn't actively worth seeking out, but if you happen to catch it, the sheer outrageousness of the film should keep it watchable.
The video quality on this DVD is sound, but the audio is phenomenal. The mayhem and sheer chaos of the action is brilliantly captured by the Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and adding to the value is the fact it doesn't swamp out or dominate the dialogue exchanges. The disc also comes equipped with a tight roster of bonus material including a so-so commentary and an interesting 26 minute making of. The latter actually offers about as much insight as the former and lasts only one third of the length, making it the best feature on this DVD. The commentary is hosted by Morel, the director showboating plenty of enthusiasm for the finished product, but also a depressing penchant for highlighting the obvious. Also included are two featurettes that focus on the CIA and world of spying, together they run for about 20 minutes and provide a decent amount of illumination on the subject.
Its worth nothing higher than a C grade, but From Paris with Love is the sort of underachiever that audiences might find charismatic in a really goofy and violent way. Still, best wait until it pops up on TV.
Sliding ever so slightly toward not guilty, but still probably not worth wasting money on.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R