From Paris With Love is kind of like Lethal Weapon meets The Hurt Locker, and when those two distinctly different sensibilities collide, itís not a good thing. Directed by Pierre Morel, whose talent for unflinching violence worked so brilliantly on Taken last year, this isnít the action movie it ought to be. Morelís style is at odds with a series of ill-fitting parts; actors who donít mesh and a script which canít seem to decide if itís lobbying for an Oscar or if it just wants to blow shit up.
In the Lethal Weapon version of this movie is John Travolta, playing a cartoonishly bald spy named Charlie Wax. His approach to his job is best described as ďrock and rollĒ. In general this means if thereís cocaine lying around heíll snort it, and if thereís someone in his way heíll shoot them in the head. Cartoonish the character may be, but heís also fantastically entertaining. Most of the movieís laughs come from Wax, a man who is never afraid to say the ridiculous or do the unthinkable. Many of Travoltaís scenes are hit and miss, but when they hit theyíre the only thing that keeps From Paris going. Wax is wild and unpredictable, and almost in spite of the movie heís been stuck in, a lot of fun.
In the Hurt Locker version of this movie is Jonathan Rhys Meyers and his fantastically unconvincing American accent as James Reece, a government agent working at the U.S. embassy in France. Heís in love with the perfect girlfriend and serious about his job. He has no discernable sense of humor, but he likes to play chess. I guess thatís what passes for a personality. Otherwise the character is all over the map. In one scene he hides in a corner like a coward while bullets fly past his head, in the next heís cool and unflappable, standing calmly while Wax makes everyone dead. Eventually that calm turns into something else. By the end of the film Reece is deeply conflicted about what theyíre doing. Heís paired up with Wax and over the course of the film goes through emotional hell, and as things get worse and theyíre embroiled in stopping a terrorist conspiracy, the whole thing becomes very dark and personal. At least until Travolta waltzes in with another wisecrack.
Thereís no chemistry between Travolta and Meyers, and itís not really their fault. Theyíve been written into different movies with no real meeting place in the middle. At some point even the movie seems to give up on making their pairing work, and splits them off into different realities. In one, John Travolta is re-paired up with a badass CIA driver who doesnít talk (presumably because they paid their actors by the word) and in the other a heartfelt Meyers stumbles around with a gun while he watches his entire life unravel.
From Paris With Love never seems comfortable with what itís doing and in the process never seems sure about what it wants to be. Is it a wild, shoot-em-up, buddy-cop movie or is it a serious meditation on the personal costs of terrorism in a world at war with itself? It waffles between those two insane extremes, never finding a middle ground, never really deciding on a specific tone. In the end itís neither and nothing. At best itís weird at worst itís a marginally offensive film which attempts to tackle deeply serious world issues by having a bearded biker shoot them with a rocket launcher.
Reviewed By: Josh Tyler