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RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
• Audio Commentary with Director Pierre Morel
• The Making of From Paris with Love
• Spies, Spooks and Special Ops Featurette
• Secrets of Spy Craft Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer
Every generic spy/mismatched partners movie meets John Tavolta.
Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, John Travolta
Directed by Pierre Morel
“And then I looked closer and the hair was obviously from a part of the body I had usually covered by pants.”
Imagine a balder, fatter spy version of Face/Off. Now remove John Woo, Nicolas Cage, and a twisted premise. What you’re left with is absolute crap that expects you to be impressed because you’ve never seen a spy movie before.
The title From Paris with Love is a directly obvious reference to James Bond’s From Russian with Love. So when we are introduced to up and coming American spy James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) stationed at the American embassy in Paris and bedding a too attractive local in his free time, the filmmakers are daring the audience to draw comparisons to that other international super-spy named James. This James is meant to be much more of a real world spy, a bit of a nerd and obviously too low level to deal in real movie-type intrigue like hidden gadgets or stopping a nuclear bomb threat in space. Then the somewhat intriguing premise makes a left turn to the completely absurd by introducing Charlie Wax (John Travolta).
Travolta’s toy time.
Wax is such an annoying, ridiculous character that his presence continually ruined the movie until there was nothing left to like. He represents the hopped up, indestructible action heroes that rose in the 1980’s, and were this 25 years ago he would have been played to much applause by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Wax references the 1984 Karate Kid by telling a Chinese gangster “Wax on, wax off” and then explains it to Reece that it was clever because his name is Wax. Travolta tries to hide his obvious modern girth with fashionable clothes and a Bruce Willis-like bald head. His dance experience helps the flow of action sequences but makes his character that much more nonsensical. Travolta, like the film itself, is the epitome of the stale and uninteresting stink all over this movie.
The film is full of almost every bad action movie cliché that exists. From James’ introduction as an effortless chess master showing us how smart he is to a shootout in a Chinese restaurant, wackiness at a major international landmark, and a wise-cracking partner who doesn’t play by anyone’s rules but his own who is flawless at killing people. Gangs of kids with guns in a low-income housing project, a straight laced man who takes drugs against his will, a circular staircase shootout, a high speed highway chase involving a bazooka, the threat of a terrorist plot against a party where the president will be present, and a close loved one who turns out to be the real villain. The movie has nothing new to say, and is the type of film I would turn off even if I was in a hotel in a remote city and it was on TV.
If Freddy Mercury had lived.
On the positive side, the movie is pretty. The cinematography is typical of modern films, but it is well done. The many stunts are handled well, even though they don’t bring much new to the game. The worst thing about this film is that it is simply so passable. One could say that even the worst films can be appreciated on some level; that some redeeming feature about them is worth noting. When a film is truly terrible it can become a parody, making it enjoyable for its sheer idiocy. But when a film is just so incredibly middle-ground, so much so that it just flops from plot point to plot point until it is over and you never think about it again, there is little to find redemption in.
From Paris with Love comes in a standard amray case with a slipcover. There is a 16×9 widescreen presentation with English 5.1 or 2.0 Dolby Digital audio. Both are serviceable. The special features begin with an audio commentary from director Pierre (Taken) Morel, who leaves large gaps of silence in between chuckling or spouting a few facts that are repetitious of the making of featurette. Certainly this is one of the poorer commentary tracks I have heard.
Jedi training at The White House lasted approximately three seconds.
The Making of From Paris with Love runs 27 minutes and goes through the production of the film, focusing mostly on the cast, the stunts, and the trouble of filming in a major city like Paris. It is one step above an EPK and is about as engrossing. Spies, Spooks and Special Ops runs 15 minutes and involves interviews with real former CIA operatives discussing the spy world. Most of the information is obvious to anyone who has ever seen a spy movie. Furthermore, they just go ahead and solidify how preposterous most of the film is, from receiving orders over a cell phone to having a partner. The Secrets of the Spy Craft featurette is little more than a 4 minute commercial for the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Also included is the film’s theatrical trailer and spots for other Lions Gate releases. Overall a very sad set of features that look lots better on paper, much like the film they are representing.