Friday, July 22, 2011

Review: From Paris with Love (2010) TH

Cupid shoots bullets in Paris

James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), an assistant to the US ambassador in France, is working covertly as an operative in Paris with a secret "voice" or control officer to give orders on the other end of a phone that he never meets. They're starting him out small as they want to see what he's capable of, such as planting a microphone in the conference room of the Foreign Minister to gather intelligence. He eventually wants to become special ops and his next assignment might give him all the experience he'll need after picking up his new partner Charlie Wax (Travolta) at the airport.

Right from the get-go you realize both are nearly polar opposites: Reese is step-by-step and methodical with a studied background in politics and foreign language, and Wax is spontaneous and unpredictable with know-how for combat and weaponry, not to mention a humorous slang for every situation he encounters. He's a man who doesn't turn his back to vices but like Jack Bauer from "24" or William James from "The Hurt Locker," he's able to cast his own feelings aside to get the job done at whatever the cost. Wax, being the loose cannon he is, takes his new partner on a series of misadventures through the city from drug dealers leading to gang members leading to pimps leading to terrorist cells and more spies.

Wax is an American operative who's supposed to be covert but instead tears up the shady areas of Paris to demand the info he needs because their mission is time sensitive. The audience gets to experience all these over-the-top scenes through the eyes of a new man on the job who signed on to something more dangerous than he initially expected to get himself into. Reese maintains an unsure trust with Wax but also tags along with a glued fascination to see what's around the next corner while his pretty and caring French girlfriend Caroline (Kasia Smutniak) stays at home with no idea that they're spilling copious amounts of blood and racking up a substantial body count. She just proposed to him that night with her father's ring, and now he has to make a sacrifice for the woman he loves when she gets wrapped up in the operation.

This is a rapidly moving action film with secrecy and espionage that barely has time to stop and take a breather, so it can be a little spoon fed at points and exaggerated for effect to keep things looking forward and never back. This results in some plotholes glazed over so things can conveniently line up, but, on the other hand, this manages to take serious stuff like protecting national security and turn it into a fun and wild ride more so than a couple of stiffs negotiating official business. There are car and foot chases, shootouts, some quick hand to hand combat and then fast paced music over top to give it all charge. The viewer's perspective is through Reese, so events seem to happen so quickly that it feels like a dream sequence only to be remembered in pieces and snippets, but for the moment a massively diverting one at that. John Travolta plays the character Wax as brazen, brash and belligerent, and is able to keep you guessing about him by making you wonder if he's formulating decisions on the fly or has a game plan already in place--maybe both. "From Paris with Love" is basic entertainment in the end but an experience that feels energizing, steadily paced and ultimately unpredictable.

Director: Pierre Morel (Taken)
Starring: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak
Website: IMDB