Movie Review: From Paris With Love

The title might deceive, but from the very beginning of From Paris with Love [FPWLV], the audience is never under the impression that this film will be the typical romance set in the City of Lights. Yes, there are handsome men, drop-dead exotic women and high-class sports cars--and, yes, a little romance, but if you are in the audience to see Paris, je t'aime, leave now.

The film opens with James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers [JRMEY]), the personal aide to the U.S. French Ambassador, the Hon. Bennington (Richard Durden) setting up a diplomatic meeting. Reece trades quick quotes with his boss then departs to finish his duties. He receives a mysterious phone call, though, and suddenly we discover--and the soundtrack music underscores this by ramping up the volume--that he lives a more secret life. He is asked to switch the license plates of a car in the carport below the embassy; why is not disclosed. Once he completes that surreptitious task, his phone rings and he's given another secret duty: to place an tiny, disc-shaped microphone in another diplomat's office while Ambassador Bennington is meeting with that same foreign official. After a bit of humorous exasperation--he tries to stick the "bug" under the office's ornate desk using chewing gum--the job is completed and he exits the embassy and goes home.

Reece's home is a stylish, mid-sized Parisian flat that's well-appointed and seems out of his salary's reach. It is furnished also with his chic girlfriend, Caroline (pronounced "carol-lean"--and, boy, is she ever--played by Kasia Smutniak.) Lithe, dark and throaty-voiced, she seems the perfect match for Reece's sleepy-eyed Americanism. She models her latest creation for him: A dress made from their bedroom curtains, and soon they are having dessert before the dinner she prepared.

Reece's phone rings again and the unknown voice applauds his ingenuity in his last caper. Reece then interjects that, while he's grateful for being able to do these small jobs, he feels he's ready for something more substantial. The "Voice" (as the part is listed in the credits) tells him his next assignment is to go to French customs--now--to help a guy get through French customs and to be this man's partner on a very important mission. Reece is ecstatic ("Honey, I got the promotion!") and leaves Caroline and their dinner for the airport. There he--and we--meet Charlie Wax.

Bald, slightly Goth-punk and very abrasive, Charlie Wax (John Travolta [JTRAV]) is berating the French customs officials because they won't let him enter the country with the cans of energy drink cached in his backpack. After an "ugly American" performance by Wax, Reece slaps a sticker on Wax's bag and its contents which allow it and Wax to enter the country. "What's so important about those cans? You can get that stuff here." Wax answers Reece by twisting the cans, which pop open to reveal different parts of "Mrs. Jones", Wax's favorite, high-powered pistol. ("They have a thing goin' on.") He then tells Reece that they have to go to a local Asian restaurant, because their assignment is to track down the cocaine drug cartel which supplied the illegal substance to the daughter of a very high-ranking U.S. govt. official, with deadly results.

Their time at the restaurant begins tame enough but, with Wax's ever-increasing questioning of the wait staff, the calm is shattered as a huge shootout explodes. Asian hit-men appear seemingly out of the woodwork, armed with high-calibre firepower. Reece rolls to safety as Wax and "Mrs. Jones" take out armed men, plaster walls and faux Ming vases. Wax follows the eyes of their original waiter to the ceiling beams above and empties a clip into the mahogany wood. The timbers split and white powder rains down (pure cocaine) which Reese is ordered to collect into the one intact vase "for use later."

Wax and Reece followed the waiter to yet another cabal of mafia types, and another gunfight ensues. The info trail the pair follow leads them to a low-income tenement project, where they uncover pictures of Reece going about his usual diplomatic functions. Amazed that he's been considered important enough for crime-lord surveillance, Reece realizes that his comic-book inspired "secret agent man" idea has become very real. Does he really have the stomach for all the real, raw blood and guts? Someone close to him has had Reece in his sights for a very long time, but who could that person be and what does it all have to do with their seemingly simple drug cartel case?

From Paris with Love pulses with testosterone almost from the very start; an unflagging beat propels the movie unceasingly throughout its length. Rhys Meyers and Travolta have great on-screen chemistry as the mismatched agents, but their characters' separate pasts and current motivations aren't really delved into all that deeply, which gives them a flatness that stops us from not caring as deeply for what is revealed. This may be deliberate for, at the end of the movie, I could totally smell "franchise." If that is the case then the director, Pierre Morel [PMORE] (who also helmed last summer's action hit, Taken) may want each character's backstory to be revealed slowly through each sequel.

As a run-of-the-mill action film--with its usual stereotypes and formulaic writing--From Paris with Love doesn't disappoint. Just don't go trying to wrest the root cause of man's inhumanity to man from it; that's not what this movie's about. If you want a few hour's worth of manic gunfights and martial arts mayhem with a dash of wry humor and a tiny bit of romance, then this movie will delight your cinematic palette more than raspberry crème brûlée ever could.

Lance J. Olson

Contributing Writer

Lance can be reached at lanceoutwest@yahoo.com


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By Lance J. Olson on Monday, February 1, 2010 @ 01:25 PM        2948 views

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