From Paris With Love

Director    Pierre Morel
Starring    John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak, Richard Durden, Yin Bing, Amber Rose Revah, Eric Godon
Release    5 FEB (US) 26 FEB (UK)    Certificate 15
2 stars


3rd March 2010

Let me point out the elephant in the room here. I don't care for the title. It's neither imaginative nor catchy, and it's been nicked from Bond. The first poster was rubbish too. A gun with the Eiffel Tower as the barrel? It's crap, and probably made many people write the film off before they even caught a glimpse of Travolta's renegade CIA, Yul Brynner-resembling douche.

Keep the faith, doubters. From Paris With Love is written and produced by action aficionado Luc Besson and directed by his former cinematographer Pierre Morel, the man who convinced us Liam Neeson can play a hard bastard in Taken. It's fair to say these two French gents know action.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays James Reece, a personal aid to the US Ambassador in Paris and a part-time low-level CIA agent. He's partnered up with Charlie Wax (John Travolta), an unconventional, trigger-happy agent sent to Paris to uncover a terrorist plot. Cue countless punches, gun fights, slo-mo explosions, car chases and a lack of consistent plot. You've gotta love the French!

Despite the title, Paris has absolutely no bearing on the story whatsoever. They don't discover anything at The Louvre or drive around the Arc De Triomphe getting confused with who gives way to who. Reece and Wax (which sounds like a type of carwash) simply go up the Eiffel Tower for no real reason other than to remind us they are in France.

[gallery]Given that From Paris With Love is from the same brain that made Jason Statham a well-dressed FedEx delivery boy in The Transporter, you've probably guessed that the plot - as confusing and muddled as it is - plays second fiddle to the action. It's a good job Wax can connect the dots from cocaine to Chinese gangs to a terrorist attack, because you'll barely be able to. There are some impressive set-pieces, many of which consist of Wax running around firing a gun in all directions whilst Reece watches on in bemusement, tutting. But the 'slower' scenes of Reece and Wax wandering around Paris snorting cocaine from a vase and holding a man at gunpoint for his Nokia charger are laughable.

Despite the messy plot, both Travolta and Meyers make the most of the situation. Meyers plays it straight as the Mandarin-speaking logical half of this buddy movie set up, later channelling a James McAvoy-esque Wanted vibe. To honour being in France, he even grew a little moustache. How thoughtful of him.

It's Travolta, however, who steals the film. We first meet the unstable, OTT Charlie Wax as he belittles a French Customs officer with variations of the word 'fuck'. But despite Wax's arrogance, novel tactics and flagrant racism towards the French, Travolta gives a new lease of life to the tired old 'loose cannon' cop. Wax is Travolta's coolest character since Vincent Vega (although given his recent output, that's not much of a compliment).

Travolta's performance saves From Paris With Love from being a total write-off, and that alone is usually enough for the studio to greenlight a sequel. Use a different city - say, From London With Love - design the poster with Big Ben as a gun barrel, throw in some slow-mo gunfights around Tower Bridge, blow some shit up and the rest writes itself. It's just a shame it won't watch itself too.

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