Pierre Morel basically made the most perfect action movie around. No sense of humor, no tongue in cheek action, just all-around badass Liam Neeson taking people out left and right in some cool, exotic European locations. Well, if you look at Taken and add in all those elements that typically ruin or at least bring a movie down a notch, you've got Morel's follow-up movie in 2009's From Paris With Love.
This is an action movie that got mixed reviews, both positive and negative saying the same thing. This is a stupid action movie that requires no real work watching it and is instantly forgettable the second it's over. I guess it depends from critic to critic what mood they were in when reviewing the movie. It's a flick that doesn't seem to know what to do with itself, making nods left and right to other similar but better movies of the same ilk. I'm okay with some winks at the audience, but this felt like one big wink the whole time. Buddy cop, no real plot, lots of action, you've seen it all before and probably in a better movie.
As a low-level intelligence agent working for the U.S. Embassy in Paris, James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is bored out of his mind, just waiting for his chance to become a field agent. After months and years of tedious paperwork and menial tasks, Reese gets his chance when he's ordered to pick up a highly efficient, highly touted field agent, Charlie Wax (John Travolta), and basically serve as his chauffeur through Paris. Get the job done and he'll get his promotion. Reese doesn't know what he's in for though as Wax's mission ranges from cocaine and drug dealers to pimps and terrorists planning an attack on a U.S./Africa delegation meeting in Paris.
Written by Luc Besson, I was expecting a little bit more out of this story, if you can call it that. After Reese is introduced at work and home, we're basically treated to a series of running gun battles as Reese desperately tries to keep up with Wax, an agent who actually knows what he's doing. They spend a day, maybe a day and a half, running through Paris shooting bad guys in every direction as the story jumps from a hit mission to a narco takeout to a terrorist cell. The writing is more of an excuse for this Odd Couple pairing of agents to drive around Paris yelling at each other. The bright spot is the last 30 minutes which does deliver a twist I didn't see coming.
Surprisingly after seeing Taken's action, the gun battles and hand-to-hand combat set pieces are incredibly dull as they pull out just about every cliche in the Action Movies 101 textbook. Lots of bullet impacts tearing props apart, bad guys unable to hit the good guys despite firing thousands of rounds of ammo, slow-motion used to death, and a blaring in your face soundtrack. These scenes sample everybody from John Woo to Sam Peckinpah and everyone in between, but not in a good way as they produce a tedious pace. The action comes together in the end as Travolta's Charlie hangs out the window of a car on a freeway outside Paris, trying to pick off a terrorist's car with a big honking rocket launcher. Now, that's an action scene.
Not so surprisingly is that Travolta is the main reason to waste 93 minutes and watch this flick. I've always liked Travolta in over the top mode (like the Pelham 123 remake) where he gets to scream, swear and shoot things up. With a shaved head, goatee and a unique sense of style, his Charlie Wax certainly doesn't blend in as a secret agent, but Travolta looks to be having a ton of fun with the part in all its outrageous glory. The same can't be said for Rhys Meyers who just doesn't seem like much of an actor to me. He's pretty monotone throughout, and his character is downright dull at times. Thankfully, Travolta carries the movie and manages to infuse some energy into this otherwise awkward buddy cop relationship.
Other than that, I don't know what else to say about this one. It's just there as opposed to leaving any sort of mark or impression on the audience. It's an unpretentious action film if nothing else, content to stay in a comfort zone instead of trying something new, but even in that respect it fails. Travolta as ultra-crazy, loony secret agent Charlie Wax is pretty much the only reason to check this out. Instead, save yourself the time and go rent Taken instead.
From Paris With Love <----trailer (2009): * 1/2 /****