Judge David Johnson thinks all Paris has for you today is a turd.
Our review of From Paris With Love, published June 14th, 2010, is also available.
Two agents. One city. No merci.
The omnipresent Luc Besson churns out another Paris-based action caper, this time with John Travolta in the lead, eschewing hair and subtlety.
Facts of the Case
Wannabe super-spy James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, The Tudors) has been toiling away as an assistant to the US ambassador to France, hoping for a shot at the CIA big leagues. His opportunity to shine arrives when he's asked to pick up special agent Charlie Wax (Travolta, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) from the airport. Wax is allegedly one of the CIA's best operatives, a gruff, smart-ass F-bomb dropper who likes to shoot first, ask questions, then shoot again.
Reece isn't prepared for the adventure Wax takes him on through the streets of Paris; which is replete with gunfights, street gang maiming, heroin smuggling and the eventual uncovering of a terrorist plot.
Luc Besson and Pierre Morel. Why must you waste my time? When you last collaborated, Taken was the result and it was one of the most thrilling and bad-ass action films I had seen in a long, long time. Now you spring this on me; a clunky, boring, ridiculous action affair that substitutes hammy acting and incessant gunfire for an involving plot and characters I give two figs about.
From Paris with Love is a fat, juicy waste of time not worthy of your attention, and it all starts with John Travolta. His Charlie Wax is a total cartoon character; an over-the-top, scenery chewing buffoon who injects each scene he's in from his introduction onward with a nuclear detonation of ridiculousness. In fact, Wax is very much like the irritating douchebag he played in Pelham. The guy is just trying too hard to be cool and hardcore and when contrasted with Liam Neeson's hero in Taken—where it came much easier and in an organic way generated by the plot and circumstances—the performance is just sad.
The plot making no sense does Travolta no favors either. There's a terrorist scheme afoot, but it's a jumbled mess perpetrated by imbeciles (a department store mannequin is the best you can do to fool the CIA into thinking you have a woman in the car?), resulting in a conflict that is as weightless as a Mylar balloon. And what guy doesn't know anything about his fiancée's family or friends? Also, why in the world would a high-ranking U.S. official blow off a threat warning? Oh right, because Wax has to hang outside of a speeding car with a rocket launcher on his shoulder bellowing like a moron.
All of which I could almost get past if there was an atom of serviceable action to be found. Nope. There's not a single inventive or engaging action sequence to be found in this film. On paper, it would appear that From Paris with Love is chock full of good-time shenanigans, as the script reads "gun battle" or "car chase" or "fight scene in the street," but in practice these moments are dull affairs.
Solid Blu-ray, though. The picture quality (2.35:1) is top-drawer, a crystal-clear transfer that pushes the (albeit shallow) hyperactivity of the film. The details spring off the screen and the bullet-ridden streets of Paris look fantastic. The "big" action scene at the end is well-shot and looks nice in high-def, though a CGI-generated RPG does no one any favors in the enhanced resolution. A 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is plenty active and bombastic, mapping those bullets well to the surrounds.
Extras: A BonusView picture-in-picture commentary with Morel, HD featurettes on the making-of, real stories of life undercover as an agent, a tour of the International Spy Museum (yee-ha), and a pair of cumbersome interactive features—a trivia game that rolls with the film, and a tour of Wax's gun locker. Disc 2 holds a standard-def digital copy.
Tedious and irritatingly free of high-concept action, From Paris with Love should be returned to sender.
Guilty. No love lost.
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Scales of Justice
• Picture-in-Picture Commentary
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