- Rated R
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Lionsgate
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t’s hard to take a movie like “From Paris with Love” seriously, because the minute you do, you risk sucking out all the fun that comes with watching a silly action film. Those that just sit back and enjoy the ride for what it is, however, will find that despite its preposterous set-up, “From Paris with Love” really isn't that bad. After all, this isn’t the first Luc Besson production to favor style over substance, and although it may not have the thrills of “Taken,” the stylish car chases of “The Transporter,” or the high-flying stunts of “District 13,” “From Paris with Love” is exactly the kind of mindless entertainment that we’ve come to expect from the French filmmaker.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as James Reece, an intelligence officer who serves as the aide to the American ambassador in Paris. Though his girlfriend (Kasia Smutniak) thinks he’s saving the world on a daily basis, the extent of Reece’s spy work boils down to simple tasks like planting bugs and switching license plates. Just when it seems like his call up to the big leagues may never come, Reece is ordered to pick up an unorthodox agent named Charlie Wax (John Travolta) from the airport and drive him around town. What sounds like a fairly straightforward assignment quickly turns into some unexpected on-the-job training when Wax’s Chinatown drug bust leads them through Paris to take down a terrorist cell operating within the city.
As expected, Besson’s story follows the same generic formula applied to his other action films, only this time around, he’s made the lead character the sidekick. Though the movie revolves around Rhys Meyer’s character as he experiences his first real mission, it’s Travolta who does a majority of the punching, kicking, shooting and general ass-kickery. He may look incredibly odd (and villainous) with a shaved head and goatee, but Travolta is nothing if not entertaining, especially considering he’s guilty of hamming it up early on in the film. Still, Wax’s over-the-top personality grows on you over time, and though he hasn’t exactly had the greatest track record lately, Travolta is one of few actors who has the charisma and gall needed to pull off such a wacky role.
Rhys Meyers doesn’t bring much to the game other than to balance out his lively co-star, but he serves his purpose well – even if he does come off a little too uptight in the process. The whole odd couple/buddy cop angle doesn’t work quite as well, however, with some of the lighter scenes (including a playful nod to “Pulp Fiction”) failing to evoke any real laughs. The movie isn’t without a sense of humor (Travolta’s character is one big in-joke), but the film’s biggest strength lies in its never-ending supply of well-choreographed shootouts. Much like Besson, director Pierre Morel knows his way around a great action scene, and “From Paris with Love” is loaded with them. It might seem a bit shallow to want to distract your audience with flying bullets, but these guys do it so well that you don’t really mind as long as you’re having fun.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
It may not look like much, but the DVD release of “From Paris with Love” boasts a decent collection of extras, including an audio commentary by director Pierre Morel and a behind-the-scenes look at location shooting in Paris, filming the action sequences, and more. Rounding out the disc is a pair of featurettes on real-life spies: one where former CIA agents discuss the job (“Spies, Spooks and Special Ops”), and a brief glimpse at the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. (“Secrets of Spy Craft”).