Judge David Johnson struggles with the paparazzi on a daily basis. Trust him, it's not an easy life.
Okay, we get it—it's hard being rich and famous.
The tagline for Paparazzi is the laughably generic "It's Time to Settle the Score." This is appropriate, since Paparazzi is a laughably generic thriller.
Facts of the Case
One second you're a laid-back Montana dude with a black and white set of values and a short temper, and the next you're thrust into the Hollywood spotlight as the next big action hero and made into fresh prey for the tabloid-serving paparazzi. Such is the life of Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser, Pitch Black).
Laramie has just starred in a huge movie called "Adrenaline Force" (now there's a movie I want to see), and his insta-fame has suddenly translated into four migraine headaches in the shape of scummy paparazzi. Leading this unscrupulous quartet is Rex Harper (Tom Sizemore), a former criminal turned free-lance photographer.
After a run-in that ends with a left-hook by Laramie and a swollen jaw for Harper, Rex decides to make Mr. Action Hero and his family his personal targets, and begins a campaign of harassment. Meanwhile, Bo and his wife (Robin Tunney) grapple with the unending onslaught of tabloid lies and embarrassing stories.
But when a high-speed photo session gets out of hand, the Laramie family ends up in a nightmarish auto collision, an event Harper and his crew don't fail to capitalize on. Bo makes it out okay, but his wife is seriously banged up and his child is left in a coma. Despite the help of a sympathetic detective (Dennis Farina, Crime Story), Bo feels helpless.
Facing the pressure of his next movie, the heartbreak of the accident, and the relentless attack of the paparazzi, Bo decides to fight back—Montana-style.
After seeing only the trailers for this movie, I thought: "You know what this looks like? It looks like a celebrity's wet dream." You know, you got a movie star and he's being harassed by paparazzi but in the movie he can do what all real movie stars would like to do: kill them!
Unfortunately, that's what Paparazzi turned out to be—a sort of fictional, cinematic "venting" for the Hollywood glitterati. Now more power to our celebrity friends for their fame and fortune, and I have no doubt that it must just suck like all get-out to have these intrusive, annoying camera-slingers never leaving you alone…but a movie about it just comes across as whiny.
However, the film could have still been cool. Even with the transparent set-up, there was a chance for the filmmakers to put together either (a) a decent revenge movie with some good, intense action, or (b) an honest character study on the effects of fame and the stripping away of privacy. However, Paparazzi doesn't focus on either neither of these possibilities exclusively, and the result is a half-baked combination of the two.
The villains are over-the-top scummy, and deserve whatever grief is thrown at them, but the payoff of Bo going ape-dirt is underwhelming. His confrontations with his stalkers lack any sizzle, and the "elaborate" plots he cooks up for revenge are tepid. The filmmakers rely mainly on implied violence and off-screen action for these exercises in vengeance, which greatly takes away from the visceral impact that a revenge movie requires for it to work for me.
On the other hand, as a straight exploration into how fame affects people, the narrative power is severely hampered by the lackluster acting and the uneven characters. The bad guys are over-the-top bad, and appear to be the incarnations of paparazzi from Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston's nightmares. They're slimy, grizzled, and unshaven, have prior felony convictions, and live in squalor. Now, I know it takes a certain kind of person to make a living intruding on people's privacy and being a general pain in the balls, but these paparazzi are Hell-spawned bathroom scum.
The flipside finds Bo Laramie the picture of goodness. He's just a normal guy who has stumbled into fame, who eventually is pushed too far (and to be honest his gripes are substantial) and takes lethal recourse with—now here's the kicker—no consequences. This shouldn't be a spoiler if you know the Hollywood action formula, but it still doesn't have to make sense. See, it's tricky in this set-up, because the paparazzi aren't exactly breaking the law. Are they unethical and loathsome? Sure. But aside from the implausible final sequence and, I guess, the ludicrous flashbulb car-chase scene, they're not criminals. Hey, these guys deserve their lumps, but it doesn't make sense for Bo to glide through it all spanky-clean, especially when a criminal investigation that can implicate him is inexplicably curtailed.
The performances do nothing to elevate the film's quality. I like Cole Hauser, but he is incredibly stiff here. The other end of the spectrum is Tom Sizemore, who hams his character up all the way into Self-Parody Land. The only noteworthy player is the always-reliable Dennis Farina, but his detective character is so inconsistently written he has nothing to work with.
Paparazzi lacks action and intensity, and tells me nothing more about the celebrity lifestyle, aside from "it sucks to have your picture taken when you're naked by the pool, and wouldn't it be great to drop one of those douchebags off a cliff?"
The disc comes with both full frame and 2.35:1 widescreen transfers. While the transfer itself is relatively clean, the colors are out of whack. In the commentary, director Paul Abascal notes the different tones he utilized in scenes to convey a certain feeling; but I think he overdid it, because the DVD augments these colors to distracting levels. Scenes will transition from morning at a beach to a movie lot. Where the whole palette was dark orange, it suddenly becomes dark blue; this isn't subtle, and ends up looking goofy and unrealistic. The 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix is strong, though, and is fairly aggressive in some parts, particularly in the car chase scene. The discrete channels get some nice practical use as well.
The extras are basically useless. Abascal gives an okay commentary, though he does an awful lot of name-dropping. The behind-the-scenes featurette is one of the most pitiful I've ever seen. Basically, footage from the trailer is stretched out and interspersed with snippets from cast and crew (including producer Mel Gibson), who pretty much admit that the film is a glimpse into the world of irritating paparazzi. Worthless. A stunt featurette focuses on a brief action scene that actually takes place in the movie Bo is filming within Paparazzi; that's how light on the action this film is. Three disposable deleted scenes wrap it up.
Paparazzi is thrill-free thriller that jettisons a potentially entertaining premise and opts to do too much at once, without doing any of it right. And do paparazzi really say things like "I am going to destroy your life and eat your soul. And I can't wait to do it"?
This just in! Paparazzi sucks!
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Director's Commentary
Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.