Hard man, slack movie
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