John Travolta essentially has two acting modes these days. When he takes on a dramatic or comedic role, audiences get the Travolta they recognize, know and love. Sure he might be a little heavier from his Saturday Night Fever days but that same smile and charm is there. However, when Travolta takes on a role where he plays someone a bit less appealing or “edgy”, he grows facial hair, gets some tattoos and in this film, goes bald. In From Paris With Love, its the second Travolta we get, but his one note character is only a very small part of what makes this noxious excuse for an action film, so terrible.
From Paris With Love is not just made of Travolta’s single note performance (essentially he curses a lot, and kills lots of people so that’s how you know he’s not to be reckoned with), but of many single note elements in all aspects of the production that results in a film where everything in it is so stridently discordant, it makes it difficult to watch.
The plot – though calling it that would be a stretch – is about Chinese drug dealers or drug dealing terrorists or about a plot against a US statesperson (it changes about every thirty minutes) in Paris who are hunted by United States secret operatives Charlie Wax (Travolta – whose character’s last name was probably picked so the screenwriters could work in their awful The Karate Kid joke) and James Reece (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). Wax and Reece make sort of an odd couple pairing – one is a relentless killer who runs on instinct while the the other tries to use logic and reason, which in this movie, is a very bad idea.
Anyhow, it’s all just a ruse to let Wax and Reece run around Paris blowing up stuff and killing lots and lots of people. Somehow, they forget the “secret” part of their job title and cause more destruction than the terrorists or gangsters they’re actually hunting. The movie might be worth watching if there was even a hint of elegance to the proceedings but director Pierre Morel seems to know his film is a disorganized mess and shoots accordingly. Morel doesn’t even pretend to try know what’s going on his own action sequences and resorts to lots of closeups, quick cuts and general confusion until he has lots of bodies laying on the ground.
In some early reviews, there were concerns raised about the film’s apparently less than flattering portrayal of ethnic groups, but one needn’t worry. Every nationality comes off as badly in the most ugly, stereotypical fashion possible in this film. If the screenwriters can take credit for anything, its for spreading their stupidity evenly across the whole film.
From Paris With Love could easily be described as junk food but that’s not entirely true as that would indicate that at some point during its 90 minute running time it was appealing.