Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

From Paris With Love


Review by Patrick Hodges

If you’re like me, a voracious moviegoer, you have a lot of friends and co-workers who are always coming to you for the skinny on the latest movie news and reviews.  Sometimes you have to boil your opinion down to five words or less, which can often be tough when you write reviews, where you have to be a little more loquacious than that.  But for any friends or co-workers who ask me what I thought about From Paris With Love, I’ll simply reply, “It’ll do.”

That is to say, it’s passable entertainment.  I wouldn’t eschew something monumental for it, say, the Super Bowl or the birth of your first child, but for an hour’s pay, you could do a lot worse.  It’s co-produced by Luc Besson, who helmed some very good Europe-based action films himself (La Femme Nikita, Leon) and directed by Pierre Morel, who brought us the surprise hit Taken last year, so you pretty much know ahead of time the kind of movie you’ll get:  some ferocious action and a fair amount of ridiculous-ness.

Though the film’s title may invoke fond memories of the glory days of James Bond, all you get here is a bald, goateed, badass John Travolta, who plays the role of Charlie Wax, one of the least subtle spies in film history.  He is the government’s go-to guy for dangerous assignments – though a bit unorthodox, he does produce results, which is all that really matters.

Tagging along is James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), the aide of the American ambassador in France, whose only foray into the cloak-and-dagger world of espionage has involved switching cars’ license plates in dark parking garages.  He longs for something more – which of course begs the cliché, “be careful what you wish for”.

Thrown together with Wax under the pretense of promotion, the mismatched pair drive around Paris, with Wax taking out bad guys left and right.  What starts out as a run-of-the-mill drug-ring bust soon escalates into a much larger threat – involving terrorism – and the deeper Reece delves into the world he covets, he finds that his role in this affair is greater than even he imagined.

I’ve never been part of the making of a movie, but if there is one major gripe I have with From Paris With Love, it’s that it seems to suffer from an identity crisis.  One wonders whether the movie that was there the day the film wrapped is even close to what it was the day filming started.  It goes from being a pure action movie with a fair amount of comedic elements (thanks mostly to Travolta, over-the-top and having a ball), turns sideways into being a buddy movie, and the ends up being something a lot more serious, like Edge of Darkness.  (Well, maybe not THAT serious, but close.)

Had the writers and the director been on the same page all the way through, this might have been a more complete movie.  Not necessarily a much better movie, just more complete.  Was it enjoyable, though?  Well… it’ll do.

3 / 5 stars

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