Rated: R Reviewed by: Jim Release date: February 5, 2010 Released by: Lions Gate Films
Action fans should enjoy this cinematic junky turbo ride hatched up by writer/producer Luc Besson, though much more muddled than a colorful Euro-spy thriller.
From Paris with Love stars John Travolta (The Taking of Pelham 123) and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Bend It Like Beckham).
Under the direction of Pierre Morel (who succeeded more with stereotyping and vengeance in Taken) and the pedestrian scribing of Adi Hasak tries to get by on a breakneck high-octane which seems like a hybrid of Crank and Training Day.
Here's another chance to see Travolta whose renegade government agent Charlie Wax with shaved head and goatee is in the City of Lights to thwart a plot against an embassy where U.S. delegates are heading in a showy over-the-top performance.
Rhys-Meyers' low-level intelligence operative James Reece, assigned to U.S. Ambassador in France, looks to move up to full-time status from an assistant and is paired with the no-nonsense Wax. Early on, Reece has to exit a romantic dinner made by his diverting girlfriend Caroline (Kasia Smutniak) to get Wax out of a jam with customs before coming under the wing of the wild Wax.
James' bewilderment noticeably derives from seeing how the take-no-prisoners Wax acts as a "master" government operative. What essentially looks like a slick, jolting computer game goes from a drug-infested Chinese restaurant, a mannequin factory, a dilapidated high-rise apartment project, as well as a brothel and dinner with Caroline and friend with menacing Middle-Eastern folks coming into focus.
From Paris with Love (something Ian Fleming wouldn't approve of) tries to give all the mayhem a certain razzle-dazzle with its variety of combat maneuvers as Reece unconvincingly becomes a suitable operative. The choreography seems to be completed by visual effects and CGI with the always imperiled Wax finished by stuntmen only to look good throughout with posing effect. The how and the why of what is eventful with all sort of reckless abandon and automatic gunfire really doesn't matter to the filmmakers as cheap gags are played from Star Trek and Travolta's long-ago big comeback Pulp Fiction. And James carrying a cocaine-filled vase for an extended period wears out its welcome.
One unexpected shooting doesn't carry its intended surprise and someone who turns out to be villanous just goes to show how diagrammed everything is where excess oftens deadens a violent buddy picture. But, if Rhys Meyers is too bland and Travolta a little long in the tooth for the kind of role he excelled more in Face/Off and Broken Arrow or even the harrowing Swordfish, it's clear he seems to have fun playing this snarky fast-talking smarty pants. Even in this kind of hot-tempered manic routine taken from its less brainless predecessors.
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