Hard man, slack movie

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

IT’S PARIS, and the Eif­fel tower is ev­ery­where you look. Brainy James Reece (Jonathan Rhys My­ers) is the US am­bas­sador’s as­sis­tant, who keeps his boss up­dated on the bed­room an­tics of the French for­eign min­is­ter while beat­ing him re­sound­ingly at chess. But Reece re­ally wants to be a se­cret agent. In his spare time he does low-grade nix­ers for the CIA that leave him frus­trated. Then his big break ar­rives in the form of Char­lie Wax (a beefed-up John Tra­volta), who ca­resses his guns, has a fond­ness for ex­ple­tives and em­ploys un­con­ven­tional meth­ods to hunt down the bad­dies, leav­ing a trail of bodies in his wake.

Wax and Reece are put on a job to­gether, tracking ter­ror­ists through the seedy un­der­world of drug dens and broth­els. But they hate each other! Reece plays by the rules and Wax is a mav­er­ick! It’ll never work!

Cue trig­ger­happy Chi­nese drug lords, sin­is­ter Mus­lims and scant­ily clad, dou­ble­cross­ing femme fatales, and you’ve got your­self a cliché-laden buddy movie only res­cued from out­right farce by Tra­volta’s charisma. He eats up the screen with rel­ish and takes on the gun-blaz­ing stereo­type with gusto.

In a nod to Tra­volta’s hit man in Pulp Fic­tion, Wax re­tains a stated fond­ness for what he re­minds Reece is known in France as a “Royale with Cheese.” It’s the kind of in-joke in­tended to point up di­rec­tor Pierre (Taken) Morel’s self- aware em­brace of his action movie in­flu­ences. Yet all he ap­pears to have learned from them is ev­ery hack­neyed trick in the book.

Rhys My­ers strug­gles to im­print him­self on view­ers’ reti­nas glued to Tra­volta, but he does get the film’s fun­ni­est mo­ment, when the by-thebook Reece is fi­nally goaded into vi­o­lence by his over­whelm­ing need for a phone charger so he can call his fi­ancé. Oth­er­wise, From Paris With Love is big, brash and ridicu­lous, with a few whizzing shootouts, some less whizzing car chases, and lots of racial stereotypes and thinly drawn char­ac­ters. About as much sub­stance as a Royale with Cheese, then, which might be just

what you’re af­ter.

‘Can I have fries with that Royale, si vous plait?’’ Di­rected by Peter Strick­land. Star­ring Hilda Peter, Ti­bor Palffy, Nor­bert Tanko

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