From Paris With Love

From Paris With Love

2010, R, 92 min. Directed by Pierre Morel. Starring John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak, Richard Durden.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 12, 2010

Anyone suffering from the dubious notion that all French people hate Americans and their gauche culture would be well-advised to take a gander at the films of director Morel (District 13, Taken) and his producer Luc Besson (the Transporter franchise, Ong-bak). There are few greater proponents of the American form of mindless film violence and flash-without-substance storytelling. A clear example in From Paris With Love comes midway into the film’s admittedly well-choreographed mayhem as the gun-crazy operative Charlie Wax (Travolta) exasperatedly explains to his new partner, James Reece (Rhys Meyers), the reasons for all the corpses piling up around them: “It’s about terrorists,” Wax declares, ending Reece’s illusion they’re chasing cocaine traffickers. Nothing more than those three words needs to be said; the film, with no further explanation of motives, nationalities, beliefs, or backstories, suddenly gets a free pass into the kill-or-be-killed zone. It’s primary and elemental and has none of that French philosophical dross mucking up the film’s astronomical body count. For Travolta, the role again shows his daring as a shape-shifting physical commodity (Hairspray and Battlefield Earth are other prime examples) and his acquiescence to portraying over-the-top wack jobs (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Swordfish). His Wax is a U.S. government black-ops guy who has a shaved head, a love of firearms, a taste for coke and women, and professional infallibility. On his Paris mission, he is teamed with Reece, an American embassy functionary who longs for more responsibilities and excitement. At first it seems Reece will be nothing but a glorified errand boy, tailing behind Wax while lugging around a Chinese vase full of evidential cocaine, but by movie’s end even he would probably thrill to the sight of Wax taking aim with a bazooka while hanging out of the window of a fast-moving vehicle. The actors make a good duo: Rhys Meyers with a methodical steadiness and Travolta with the character’s maniacal unpredictability. From Paris With Love is their show all the way. The film is so self-referencing, however, that a running gag about Wax/Travolta craving a “royale with cheese” moves the film’s energy backward rather than forward. Perhaps instead it was a reference to the film’s nutritional value rather than its screen precedents.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Pierre Morel Films
Peppermint
Jennifer Garner assumes an Alias to get revenge

Matthew Monagle, Sept. 14, 2018

The Gunman
Sean Penn stars as a regretful ex-mercenary in this international game of cat and mouse

Steve Davis, March 20, 2015

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Isn’t It Romantic
Another entry in the bizarre "head trauma leads to female empowerment" rom-com genre

Feb. 15, 2019

2019 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animation
The Academy's five favorite animated shorts, plus two ringers

Feb. 8, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

From Paris With Love, Pierre Morel, John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak, Richard Durden

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle