From Paris With Love is overblown, derivative, and a complete mess of a film, but it still manages to be enjoyable. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays James Reece, the assistant to the U.S. Ambassador in France and, more importantly, a budding CIA agent. Reece wants to grow beyond switching license plates and planting bugs and he gets the opportunity when he's partnered up with John Travolta's larger-than-life Charlie Wax.
When Wax is introduced, the film shifts gears violently. For better or worse, I can't tell. My first impression of Charlie Wax is that he's a cartoon spy that has somehow made his way into the real world and continues to dole out justice in the same way he did in fantasy land. Reece tries his damnedest to keep him in line, but ol' Charlie can't be stopped.
In all seriousness, the film that From Paris With Love started out as is not the type of film that Charlie Wax belongs in. He would be more at home in a John Woo film. The strange thing is, after a while, it works.
John Travolta is a master at overacting. He's also quite skilled at standard acting, but when he's allowed to let loose, you're guaranteed to have some fun. He came into From Paris With Love and completely hijacked it and started to shape the film to his liking.
It's sad that what started out as a potentially smart spy film degenerated into another formulaic shoot'em up, but you have to give the filmmakers credit for attempting such a jarring pairing of ideals and tones in their two lead characters. You're seeing Charlie Wax through James Reece's eyes, so you're completely aware that this type of behavior is not acceptable. But as time goes on, Reece starts to come around to Charlie, as does the audience. This is the movie they want to see now and Reece is not capable of carrying it.
After twenty minutes of Charlie Wax Brand justice, you're urging Reece to man up and get with the program. There's a new sheriff in town and we love him. His methods may be unorthodox, but he gets results. I'm actually paraphrasing a line from the movie there.
Despite this praise, this film is a fine example of why an entertaining does not always equal good. Decisions are illogical, twists are somewhat predictable, and the overall story has been told a million times. The action is fast and entertaining, but it always is, so you're not going to see anything here that you haven't seen before.
There's a line in the film that directly references Pulp Fiction and this is when you realize exactly what this movie is. Everyone is here to have fun, there was never any real intention to make a smart spy film. I'm not sure if they started out that way and then changed their mind or they wanted to put you at ease before unleashing Charlie Wax on you, but what you sit down for is not what you end up getting. Will you care? Probably not.
There are too many things wrong with From Paris With Love to call it a good film, but there is something positive to say about them completely and totally embracing what they were going for. Mega John Travolta, which I have to decided to call him from now on, is in top form.
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