From Paris With Love
Release Date: February 5, 2009
Cast: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers
By Sean Chavel
The people behind the making of "From Paris with Love" wanted to make a sensational CIA intrigue action-adventure without caring whether or not the CIA details were accurate or realistic. The filmmakers' intention is to create an entertainment that is a blast, a rip-roaring adventure that doesn't need to mirror anything going on in real life. The clichés are ripped off from clichés from other movies.
Pierre Morel (“Taken,” which demonstrated concern with that thing called narrative ) gets to play around with a couple of explosion scenes, meaning you get the sense that this is a director that loved putting together his sharp camera angles and smash-cut editing techniques. He gets two primary camera subjects: Jonathan Rhys Meyers (who we love from “Match Point”) and John Travolta (who we love from “Face/Off”). Kasia Smutniak (who you might know only if you spend a lot of time with French cinema) is the secondary camera subject, also known as the pretty girl.
James Reese (Rhys Meyers) is established early as a personal aide to the U.S. Ambassador in Paris. In addition to being an aide, he is also the Ambassador's chess partner which is important for setting up a howlingly bad exchange of dialogue at the end of the movie which I dare not give away. Anyway, Reese's dream is to become an operative for the CIA. He gets an on-the-field training day when he acts as escort to FBI agent Charlie Wax (Travolta) who transports firearms from the States and successfully gets them past French security.
For a whole half hour, I was uncertain what was going on plot-wise but off the track I was still amused by the male repartee. What I could gather was that Wax might be considered some kind of bad guy since he indulges in snorting drugs and cajoling with hookers. If there is a central mystery in the film – intended or unintended because I was never sure if the filmmakers had an agenda or not – it is whether or not Wax is a bad guy or simply a badass renegade. Like I said, I wonder if “mystery” was even intended within the screenplay.
What is apparent is that Reese is less an escort than a tag along, and the intensity of Wax's methods is scary for him – Reese is not sure if he should trust Wax. Within two hours, the two of them are already engaged in a couple of shoot-outs or brawls. Within twenty-four hours, well, it's bam-bam all over the place. The one-liners in-between the bullet frays can be described as either awful or priceless, or maybe it is both at the same time. I think screenwriters of action movies in the 1980's tried harder to be witty. I do apologize for not having any dialogue examples for you, but perhaps just in case you see the movie, I wouldn't want to spoil the ridiculousness for you.
I am going to be Mr. Obvious here: This is not a respectable movie but it is not trying to be. I can't even begin to say how incoherent the plot is but I am amused by how unconcerned it was at being incoherent. The big whopper plot twist where the key woman of the plot turns out to have a double-crossing agenda isn't mind-bending, it's just contrived.
Oh, the action is preposterous, and laughable, but isn't it fun to laugh? Isn't ridiculous more fun than solemn? Sure, sometimes it is even if it is to a limited degree. I was shaking my head in disbelief, yet I wasn't exactly bored.
My memory was a little fuzzy just a couple of hours after seeing the movie, but I do have a couple of favorite moments. I like the scene at the end where the French diplomat is irritated by the inconvenience of how delayed she is – didn't she recall that just moments ago an oncoming car got hit by a rocket launcher that was intended for her? Then at the beginning, how about shoot-out at the Chinese restaurant scene with cocaine oozing through bullet holes from the ceiling. What was that about? I mean to say, What Was That About!!!