Sunday, February 28, 2010

REVIEW: From Paris with Love

2010 Action
Starring:  John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Kasia Smutniak
Written by Adi Hasak, Luc Besson
Directed by Pierre Morel

With the first trailer I saw of From Paris with Love –heck, from the first I heard of the film period- my thoughts were Complete Waste of Time and Money; Travolta? No thanks. Besson Producing? Empty stunts display. Pierre Morel, I admit, stunned me with the very effective and cool Taken. But I still went into this one, kicking and screaming. MAN was I on the wrong track!

Story follows planted agency academic James Reece who’s biding his time posing as an Embassy aide in France while doing boring support assignments until he gets the big call. Which comes in the form of Charlie Wax, an over-the-top “cleaner” who’s gun-blazing methods leave Reece hanging on the edge of his wits by turning a simple driving job into a full-on war of two against hundreds.

My one mistake for putting off on this one –and without interest- was trusting the opinion of Roger Ebert who pretty much laid down how the film’s marketing made me feel. Lots of respect for the big guy whom I constantly quote in saying a review is nothing more than one person’s opinion, but in this case I’ll counter-quote with my buddy Biggeoff’s saying: we’re not movie critics, we’re movie lovers, and I strongly feel Ebert watched too many movies to just appreciate the pure fun of something like this. Not an Oscar winner by any means, but completely out-of-the-blue entertainment and thrill ride.

I never thought I’d be writing this again after the last decade and some, but the film’s greatest strength is John friggin Travolta, who plays as many tricks on the audience as his character does his partner. All throughout the film he sets us up to believe him the usual American action film cowboy cliché but keeps spinning it out at the last second to reveal something else entirely; his messing around with the genre echoes the same of the entire movie. This isn’t a grudge film about a dark anti-hero out to face his demons because of a bad upbringing or any traumatic s**t that happened to him; it’s simply a guy who absolutely loves what he does and does it better than anyone: blowing bad-guy brains out. Simple as that.

Sounds idiotic and mindless except the execution is so well paced and anti-conventional while following the usual basic rules that from the first twist Charlie Wax pulls on us we’re completely taken into his ride and are left wanting for more. Co-star Jonathan Rhys-Meyers does the smart thing in emulating the audience – just going along from hit to hit, without over-acting and like Trav avoiding clichés of a character played out thousands of time on the screen.

The “big” plot twist I have to admit seeing from a mile away – literally, I knew what it was 5 minutes into the film. But by the time it actually happened I didn’t care anymore, I was having too much fun enjoying an actual Travolta performance of guts and fun to care about criticizing this thing. So much that the ending, which obviously points to an eventual franchise, left me sad knowing it was over AND that the film’s quite poor box-office will not allow such a sequel to happen. Although it’s a Besson film and not a Hollywood profit excuse, so who knows, maybe Charlie Wax will dazzle me again.

I really wish Travolta had turned down most of the crap he’s been doing since his initial career resurgence as Vincent Vega and Chilli Palmer 16 years ago; movies like this one would probably have had a much better chance of being appreciated without prejudice.  But no, he had to sign on for Wild Hogs 2... come on dude – leave the Disney waste behind and give us more of Charlie Wax! My two cents: I’ll take From Paris with Love over every Tony Scott waste of celluloid any day of the week.

Final Word: 8/10

No comments:

Post a Comment