Monday, April 26, 2010

My Parisian Love Never Developed

From Paris with Love

James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is the personal aide to U.S. Ambassador in France. Despite being good at his job, Reece dreams of becoming a secret agent. One day James finally gets the break he is hoping for when his boss orders him to drive an American agent, Charlie Wax (John Travolta), around the city. If Reece can successfully pull this task off, not to mention survive Wax’s shoot first ask questions later style, he will become a true agent. Unfortunately for Reece, Wax’s unorthodox methods may cause him to rethink the whole secret agent entirely. As the two men travel around Paris dismantling a drug ring, they stumble upon a terrorist plot that may just cost James Reece everything he holds dear. That is, of course, if Charlie Wax does not kill him first.

On the surface From Paris with Love had all the makings of a great “guilty pleasure” action picture. First you have Luc Besson, the man behind action cinema classics such as La Femme Nikita and Leon: The Professional, overseeing the production as producer. Add director Pierre Morel whose last film, Taken, was my top guilty pleasure picture of 2009. Finally, sprinkle in a little over-the-top John Travolta and you have yourself a rather tasty dish.

Sadly, and somewhat surprisingly, the ingredients never melt into a satisfying meal. The question then becomes who is to blame? The answer to which is not quite as simple. Luc Besson and Pierre Morel have proven, with their work on District 13, they can offer up action packed junk food that will fill you for several hours. The action in From Paris with Love, though uninventive at times, pretty much delivers fights and explosions you expect it to. The one of the good things about Morel’s movies is that he takes time to actually show the hand-to-hand combat. Instead of opting for fast paced cut scenes like many directors working today.

If you eliminate Besson and Morel, then the axe would fall on John Travolta but even picking on him is too easy. Sure Travolta is not at that outrageous, but entertaining, level that he was in John Woo’s flicks, Face Off and Broken Arrow; but I will say that Travolta did not have much to work here to begin with. I think both Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers are victims of Adi Hasak’s awfully dull screenplay. I understand that you do not go into this type of film expecting an outstanding plot. Majority of the time you merely hope for at least a decent tale to justify all the butt-kicking. Unfortunately Hasak blunders the one element that is basic to all action comedies, and buddy flicks in general, which is to figure out who is the straight man and who is the comic relief.

If you look at films like Beverly Hills Cop, The French Connection, Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour, District 13, etc. they all have various degrees of this. One partner will always be slightly more wisecracking than the other. One partner is more of a “badass” than the other and so forth. The annoying thing about From Paris with Love is that Charlie Wax often tries to be everything rolled into one. Adi Hasak spent so much time ensuring that Charlie Wax has all the best lines that he never really develops the character of James Reece properly. Reece goes from straight arrow at the beginning to bumbling sidekick for the bulk of the movie. By time Reece reaches the point where he must make a crucial decision, you have lost interest in both Reece and the film as a whole.

Speaking of Reece’s decision towards the end, this is a perfect example of a good plot device wasted. While I liked idea of the twist, in theory, it ultimately falls flat as there is nothing in the story that sustains it. Things are revealed then forgotten about for another twenty minutes. In order for the climax to have any resonance whatsoever Hasak needed to build up certain characters far more than what we are given. Although this might be asking for too much from a film that cannot even get the basic components of a buddy action film right.


2 comments:

  1. Darn, I really wanted to see this movie because I have a craving for good action and things blowing up nicely and this looked like a throwback to the pre-CGI days where explosions were actually explosions but unfortunately, as the years pass I feel I need a good (or at least semi-logical story) and interesting characters to connect the action together and drive it along. Growing up sucks.

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  2. @Mike - Wait for DVD on this one. It will probably play better on the small screen. Also, if you are craving action, I hear that the District 13 sequel will be released on DVD in the coming weeks.

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