June 8, 2010
DVD GUILTY PLEASURES: From Paris With Love
Directed by Pierre Morel
2010, 95 minutes, in English and French For whatever his schlocky flaws, I'll take the chest-beating mainstream action of French director Pierre Morel (District B13, Taken) over Michael Bay's visual incoherence, Neveldine and Taylor's self-impressed postmodern pranks, the workmanlike tedium of later-era Ridley Scott, or anything with a Brett Ratner credit every time. A former cinematographer and pupil of Luc Besson (who co-wrote this script with Adi Hasak), Morel's underrated eye and knack for making kinetic movement rhythmic and easy to follow elevates Besson's run-of-the-mill, mismatched-buddy thriller into a propulsive, enjoyably Eurotrashy entertainment. In the straight man role, Jonathan Rhys-Myers is the U.S. ambassador's aide James Reese, a by-the-books nerd from the East New York projects who now lives with his fashionable French girlfriend and secretly moonlights for the CIA. James hopes to catch his big break into special-ops when he's assigned to partner with rogue FBI agent Charlie Wax, played by a bald, goateed, makeup-caked ruffian named John Travolta, chewing the scenery like it were the greasiest, juiciest hamburger he's ever tasted (not for nothing, he has a gratuitous predilection for the Royale with Cheese). There's certainly a bit of post-Pulp Fiction burlesque to Charlie, the most unhinged and legitimately fun-to-watch Travolta performance since Face/Off, and his blustery braggadocio (with more gratuitous predilections: hookers and blow) gives the film ten times more personality than that Arnold on Green Acres. Oh, and don't worry about the plot. With all the Chinese drug dealers and Pakistani thugs who Charlie gleefully drops (while poor James stands slackjawed, holding a vase full of coke that gets to break at precisely the right comedic/badass moment), some critics have taken stabs at the sociopolitical mechanisms working within the film's convoluted war-on-terror references, but that any exist and engage is a stretch. Knowing any more than that might ruin what's essentially super-spy camp with a half-serious swagger, John Woo's sense of blood-splattered symphony without the pretentious iconography, and the clearest of delineations: The good guys are as easy to profile as the bad guys, the story twists are outrageous instead of believable, and of course your driver should pull up to the overpass; it's too hard to jettison another car with a bazooka from the freeway.
Posted by ahillis at June 8, 2010 2:38 PM