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  From Paris With Love Travolta gets his Royale with Cheese
Year: 2010
Director: Pierre Morel
Stars: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak, Richard Durden, Yin Bing, Amber Rose Revah, Eric Godon, François Bredon, Chems Dahmani, Sami Darr, Julien Hagnery, Mostéfa Stiti, Rebecca Dayan, Michaël Vander-Meiren, Didier Constant
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) leads a chic Parisian lifestyle with his beautiful French fiancé, Caroline (Kasia Smutniak), but wants a little more from his job as an intelligence operative liaising with the American ambassador (Richard Durden). He gets that chance when partnered with top C.I.A. agent Charlie Wax (John Travolta), who turns out to be not the suave James Bond-type Reece was expecting, but a gargantuan, chrome-domed, foul-mouthed, soldier of fortune. In pursuit of an international drug cartel, Wax turns his callow partner’s life upside down and leaves a trail of chaos in his wake, but when the pair uncover a terrorist plot things hit a lot closer to home for Reese.

From Paris With Love is a typical high-octane/low-substance Luc Besson production but made with tremendous verve and panache. A glossy variation on the age-old mismatched partners story while also something of a spy spoof, this plays a better joke than xXx (2002). Whereas Vin Diesel’s superficially similar bald brute was all bad attitude and not much else, Charlie Wax is not quite the amoral, antisocial bastard he appears to be. No matter how outrageous or borderline psychotic, there is a reason behind his every action and though rough around the edges, he proves every bit as much a connoisseur of fine foods, fast cars and beautiful women as 007.

Travolta gives it the full-tilt boogie, doing his best work since Face/Off (1997). Co-writers Besson and Adi Hasak mimic the pop culture patter of his legendary turn in Pulp Fiction (1994), right down to reuniting him with his “royale with cheese”! And it’s lots of fun watching him play one-man army taking on multi-ethnic gang-bangers a dozen at a time (“Tell me that wasn’t some impressive shit!” Rhys Meyers is a trifle low-key but this fits his role. He pulls off the deadpan comedy has the verbal dexterity to make a convincing multi-linguist.

Coming after the grim and gritty Taken (2008), regular-Besson collaborator Pierre Morel plays this one breezy and humorous. He keeps up a helter-skelter pace, relishing the wise-cracking script though the writers spring a late-hour, cynical shock twist. Besson and Hassak trade in broad clichés about brash Yanks and rude Frenchmen but some may object to the hero-worship of gung-ho C.I.A. agents while the inclusion of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists seems in questionable taste. The story is nonsensical but knows it, as illustrated in a witty joke wherein audience stand-in Reese is too coked-up to decipher Wax’s breathless explanation of the plot. The action scenes are visceral and spectacular, if anonymous including Morel’s obligatory free-running sequence. John Woo has his doves. Pierre Morel has his free-running. It’s a one-night stand movie, frenzied and fun. You won’t remember much afterwards, but won’t hate yourself either.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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