Starring: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak, Richard Durden
Director: Pierre Morel
Writer(s): Adi Hassak, Luc Besson
Cinematography: Michel Abramowicz
Original Score: David Buckley
Running Time: 92 Mins.
Okay, so, there are two government agents in Paris, one of them has the surname Wax (Travolta) and the other Reese (Rhys Meyers), one is sensible, one is a loose-cannon, and one of them spends a third of the film carrying a vase of cocaine whilst the other shoots up half of Paris, no prizes for guessing which is which. Let’s face it, if this description gets you as giddy as a (grown-up) schoolboy you might just be in action-movie heaven, if however you can’t take your films with a little, shall we say, cheese or have a condition I like to call “Travolta-itis” this might just be your filmic version of kryptonite!
Fortunately I do love trashy action films (that know they are trashy and wear this fact on their sleeve!) and have a slight adoration for Travolta at his best/worst, cheesy one-liners n’all! I could have just saved the bulk of that last paragraph had I simply said that From Paris With Love is written/produced by Luc Besson and most importantly directed by Pierre Morel, he who brought us last years Taken, of which this shares many attributes, not least a stereotypical view of France and the titular city itself that I’m sure won’t have too many of the natives over-joyed!
Film’s of this nature usually depend on two things, and its very rarely the script or story, because hackneyed as the story is, it manages to hold a few surprises not least a good twist villain reveal that, despite my unobservant nature when it comes to spotting twists, I would expect very few will guess. The plot itself also delivers on the action front, but this really is the least From Paris With Love should provide, all the usual beats are present and correct, slo-mo fist fight, shoot out, knife fight, shoot out, bazooka employed during a car chase, shoot out, you get the picture…right?
The real enjoyment here though lay with the central duo, and I’ve said it before and will say it again, Travolta is the best there is when he’s at the top of his game at playing OTT action men with a great line in cheesy one-liners and a cocky swagger, and with Charlie Wax we may just have the epitome of that type! With sayings such as “Wax on, Wax off” and some of the most cringe-worthy references to his past films, “Royale wi’ cheese” anyone! True, he doesn’t look quite as “nimble” as Liam Neeson did darting around Paris but in his heft there is a different kind of macho man, one that isn’t dishing out beatings for revenge but rather enjoyment, and that enjoyment is infectious even if it does edge the audience into sadistic territory at times.
Rhys Meyers provides the perfect foil and displays a great flair for awkward comedy that compliments his counterpart’s habit of going OTT, for better or worse, both the banter and physical comedy touches are superbly handled and never veer too far into seen-it-all-before territory, in fact the closing promise of a sequel is an unusually welcome prospect!
That said there are inevitable weaknesses aside from those associated for the non-Travolta lovers out there, the lack of characterisation in anyone other than the central pairing, the lack of a good villain following the good reveal, and a somewhat lacklustre final showdown stop From Paris With Love being a shining example in a, once, over-crowded genre. Instead it has to settle for being a hugely enjoyable one that does a lot more with a small budget than many films with bigger budgets come close too!, though looking for cracks and weaknesses in a film of this “brand” really becomes a moot point!
Welcome to the John Travolta show…in Paris. To be sure your opinion of From Paris With Love is likely to be wavered dependent on your love of its star, if you can even overcome that there is much here to enjoy, not least great chemistry and some crazily OTT action scenes, and to be fair the pace never lets up meaning it is hard to notice the flaws that are on closer inspection likely to be many.