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From Paris with Love Review


RATING:
(2.5 STARS)

Pierre Morel’s “From Paris with Love” is the kind of generic action film that would’ve been right at home in the summer of 2010. It tried to capitalize on the early-year success of last year’s “Taken,” which is also directed by Morel, but it flamed out. It’s not as bad as its reviews or its poor performance indicates. The action scenes are energetic, and John Travolta gives a terrific, scenery-chewing performance. But the preposterousness of the plot and the gaping holes in logic hold it back from being as fun an action film as Salt.

James Reece (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) spends his days as an assistant for an American diplomat in France. His nights, however, are spent training to become a secret agent. His duties in training are inconsequential thus far, but one night, he receives a call telling him if he successfully partners up with agent Charlie Wax (Travolta) for a night of mayhem, he’ll become part of the club. So he says goodbye to his adoring fiancé, Caroline (Kasia Smutniak), and goes to pick up Wax at the airport. Once they are together, the dead bodies pile up, and Reece is forced to carry around a vase full of cocaine. The true nature of their mission isn’t known to Reece, but if he wants to pass this test, he’s going to have to forget any rules or boundaries he has set for himself, for Wax is a wild, wild man.

Easily the most enjoyable part of “From Paris with Love” is Travolta’s performance. He steps out of his comfort zone a bit and just nails it. Few characters this year were as much fun to watch as Wax. He and Rhys-Meyers (who is merely OK) have great chemistry. Their scenes together reminded me of a lighthearted version of Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day or Michael Mann’s “Collateral,” and they carry this film. Whenever the film shifts focus to Reece and Caroline, the momentum stalls.

The action scenes are fun to watch. They’re not very original, but they’re well-choreographed and interesting. The best takes place in a spiral staircase as Reece and Wax run from some drug dealers. As the film goes on, they begin to feel stale (part of the reason for that is the shift in focus from Wax to Reece that takes place near the one-hour mark). The rocket launcher chase, for example, goes on way too long.

There are also a few cases of mind-numbing stupidity from these so-called “superspies” that really frustrated me. Without getting too much into it, I’ll just say that the best way to plant a bug in a room isn’t chewed-up gum. And if someone pulls a gun at a United Nations-like event, I don’t think they’ll be given the opportunity to talk their way out of it. Moments like these are necessary evils—the plot requires them, but they irritated the hell out of me.

I think “From Paris with Love” is quite similar to this summer’s Knight and Day. Both films are off-the-charts unbelievable, but they are both breezy enough to be worthwhile watches. I think “Paris” actually surpasses “Knight,” simply on the strength of Travolta’s performance. Again, it’s not groundbreaking cinema by any means. In fact, I’m not even giving it a solid recommendation. But I can’t say I didn’t have any fun watching it.

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