After the shameless revenge romp that was Taken, audiences could easily be forgiven for thinking Luc Besson and Pierre Morel were on to a winning formula: pimping out Paris for good, old-fashioned American shoot’em-ups. This latest venture even comes with a cheekily reflexive title and The Transporter producer India Osborne. But then again, it also trades in Liam Neeson for John Travolta, and a vaguely intriguing revenge narrative for an absolutely absurd, intellectually insulting buddy cop meets terrorist plot.
No, not even rose coloured glasses can rescue this monstrosity. It’s as if Besson didn’t appreciate William Holden’s screenwriting creation in Paris When it Sizzles was satire; such is the rampant ridiculousness of this film that it can’t even be forgiven for being so bad it’s good.
The preposterous plot sees Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing James Reece, a US embassy gopher and undercover agent who rapidly moves up the ranks when assigned to accompany agent Charlie Wax (John Travolta – and yes, they go there with the Karate Kid line) on some secret government business in Paris. There’s no real point paying attention to why Wax starts shooting people, it’s about as baseless as Reece having to hoist around a cocaine filled vase like an oversized handbag.
From Paris with Love doesn’t dwell on the detail. Instead the film careens from one shoot-out to the next; chockfull of cheesy dialogue and awful racial stereotypes, it’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer. The Chinese, Africans and Pakistanis all succumb to Wax’s glorified gun, (which he honestly declares he’s married to) dispatched with gleeful ease, and with no clear cause.
Established in an opening chess game, Reece is supposedly the brains to Wax’s erstwhile brawn (now quite a few ‘Royals with Cheese’ worse for wear), but in actuality Reece is a mere sounding board for Wax’s explosive immorality. “Tell me that wasn’t some impressive shit!” he demands after obliterating one ethnic group or another. Indeed it seems Travolta has regressed to Battlefield Earth standards, with his pudgy, bald-headed performance positively unspooled. It’s occasionally amusing, but mostly he’s just cringe-worthy.
Meyers fairs a little better as the wide-eyed straight man. Though his American accents sticks in his throat, his is perfectly adequate as the audience’s window into this shady Parisian underworld. However the subplot involving Reece’s irreverent fiancée Caroline (Kasia Smutniak), unfortunately requires of him a climactic invocation of love, which couldn’t ring more hollow it he were entombed.
There is honestly nothing to recommend in this atrocious film. The title alone is a smite upon the splendour of the glorious capital. In fact the film only acts as a sad reminder of just how long ago Besson gave us Léon.
Published by Street Press Australia
Australian release date: 18 February 2010