From Paris with Love
You’ll never be able to explain this photo to your wife, John.

Theatrical Release Date: 02/05/2010
Director: Pierre Morel
Cast: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak, Richard Durden, Yin Bing, Amber Rose Revah

Hoping to capitalize on the unexpected financial success of director Pierre Morel’s last film, “Taken“, the powers that be have allowed him to come back with another action flick in the form of “From Paris with Love”. This time around, instead of Liam Neeson rescuing his daughter from the sex slave industry, John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers must foil a terrorist plot.

Don’t worry about plot details, however, because they shouldn’t be your primary concern considering this action fest so joyfully lacking believability came from the mind of Luc Besson. While another hand gets the screenplay credit, Besson’s trademark frenetic action and surreal situations are on full display and without his posterior in the director’s chair, you’re not going to get a film with the same sense of style and finesse as “The Professional” or “La Femme Nikita”.

Still, that doesn’t mean there’s no fun to be had and from about ten minutes in, when super spy Charlie Wax (Travolta) gets introduced in a foul mouthed exchange with a French customs officer (and dressed like Mr. Clean playing Pirate for Halloween), the audience is taken on a fairly free flowing ride as Wax and his naïve new partner James Reece (Rhys Meyers) track down those looking to cause some trouble at an International conference in Paris.

The action scenes usually involve watching Wax waste numerous baddies while Reece tries not to get in the way but their dynamic works and it’s generally fun to watch Travolta rehash shades of his characters in “Face/Off” and “The Taking of Pelham 123“. There’s also some nifty stunt driving on display by another agent working with our heroes but while the car is an Audi, apparently Jason Statham wasn’t available or there’s been a falling out because he was nowhere to be found. Though I give the filmmakers credit for throwing in a fun reference to “Pulp Fiction” on behalf of Travolta’s involvement (I won’t ruin the moment).

From an acting perspective, no one’s going to be getting any statuettes but that’s okay with a film like this. Travolta clearly relishes these types of roles and between his charm, the fight choreography, editing and direction, the action comes off fine. Rhys Meyers also seemed fairly well cast for his role, playing the wannabe super spy/everyman better than I expected; though he also completely botches a scene right at the end when he’s supposed to pull off this emotional plea that elicited little more than embarrassed laughter from the screening audience and myself.

But again, you’re not in the theater to see great drama – you want to see bad guys punched, kicked, shot and, for an unlucky few, dropped down stairwells. Essentially, “From Paris with Love” is “Taken” with comedy and fewer slow down moments (though there are still some). So if you liked Morel’s last film, or the idea of John Travolta wise-cracking and cracking skulls, by all means check out the film; a 3 out of 5, it’s fun and mindless … which isn’t so bad now and then. Consider it a welcome respite from the Oscar fare you’re cramming to get ready for next month’s awards show.