Thursday, March 18, 2010

"FROM PARIS WITH LOVE" (2010) Review




”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” (2010) Review

On the heels of last year’s action hit, ”TAKEN”, producer/writer Pierre Morel released another action packer last month called ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE”. This movie centered around a pair of CIA operatives portrayed by John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers hunting for Islamic terrorists in Paris.

Rhys-Meyers portrayed James Reece, an aide to the U.S. ambassador to France who also happened to be a low-level CIA operative with duties that include changing cars license plates for field operatives. His constant requests for a promotion to field agent finally led to a senior-level assignment as an escort for a visiting CIA agent named Charlie Wax sent to stop a possible terrorist attack. What started as a simply task of getting Charlie cleared by French Customs agents, eventually led to a series of dangerous and sometimes humorous adventures in the French underworld in search of Islamic extremists.

Unlike last year’s ”TAKEN”, producer Luc Besson and director Pierre Morel presented a tale that relied more on comedy and less upon family angst. I must admit that Besson and co-writer Adi Hasak’s screenplay for ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” did not seem all that original. The movie seemed like your typical action flick filled with one-liners, hair-raising stunts and explosions. However, like ”TAKEN”, the movie did provide plenty of interesting views featuring the steamier side of Paris and some very hilarious moments between Travolta and Rhys-Meyers. I am also grateful that cinematographer Michel Abramowicz’s photography lacked the shaky camera work that has occasionally marred some action films over the past 5 ½ years.

I do have one major problem with this film. Aside from one character, all of its villains – minor or otherwise – came from France’s immigrant population. Wax and Reece encountered criminals of Asian, African and Arabic descent. And although the movie featured one French villain, the character happened to be a recent convert to Islam. At least ”TAKEN” featured a corrupt French cop and an equally corrupt American diplomat. Not even ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” can claim this brand of diversity.

Another aspect of ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” proved to be the screen teaming of John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. Quite simply, they sizzled - much to my surprise. Travolta’s Charlie Wax bore a strong resemblance to some of his other over-the-top characters that he has portrayed over the years – including his performance in last year’s ”THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3”. However in ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE”, Travolta portrayed a protagonist. One of the good guys. Instead of being slightly overbearing, Travolta turned out to be funny as hell. But he was not the only one who provided humor in the movie. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers proved that he could match Travolta in the humor department, as his character James Reece reacted to Wax’s lunacy. And there were several scenes in which he also proved that he could be just as over-the-top as Travolta. Of course, this should not be a surprise. Rhys-Meyers has been portraying the extroverted King Henry VIII on Showtime’s ”THE TUDORS” for the past three seasons. My only quibble with his performance was that his American accent seemed ridiculously flat at times.

Would I be inclined to rent or purchase the DVD release of ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” in the near future? Sure. Why not? Granted, I found its portrayal of Paris’ immigrant population rather one-dimensional. And its plot seemed to lack any originality, whatsoever. But Besson and Hasak wrote a solid story with plenty of action, tension and humor. And Morel’s direction did justice to their screenplay. So, yes . . . I would consider buying the DVD version of the movie. After all, it is damn entertaining.

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