In baseball terms, Pierre Morel’s [Transporter 3, District B13] best pitch is the high, hard heater – the shoulder high fastball. His movies tend to start off with a bit of scene-setting and then shift into high gear for the rest of the ride. So it is with From Paris With Love – a movie filled with shootings, stabbings and stuff getting blowed up real good. If Joe Bob Briggs was still doing regular reviews, he’d give this three explosions out of five.
James Reece [Jonathan Rhys Meter – The Tudors, Gormenghast] is a low-level intelligence operative who is acting as the American ambassador’s aide and whose girlfriend, Caroline [Kasia Smutniak] has just asked him to marry her. Although he hasn’t had any specialized training, he longs to go into the field – and gets his chance when he’s assigned to drive top agent Charlie Wax [John Travolta] around the city. And then the fun begins…
The rest of the film uses two vague plot arcs – one centered on drugs; one centered on an international political convention – to plunge Reece so far out of his depth that, by the third act, he’s a shell-shocked bundle of nerves. People die in all sorts of amusing ways – thrown from a tenth floor stairwell; shot by various guns; knifed; bazooka’d [if that isn’t a word, it should be], and bombed.
The madness and mayhem are of a sort that is so purely designed as to almost achieve a kind of detached wit – but not quite. What keeps that distancing from happening is Travolta’s glee at portraying a good guy who is not really good [except in the sense of being good at his job] and not at all nice – though he does appreciate a cup of fine homegrown mint tea. Reece is almost too much of a cipher to matter except a plot device, but Rhys Meyer does get a few good moments and, being the actor he is, he seizes them.
The plot twists are almost irrelevant [mostly because it’s only almost a plot]. What matters is the ride, and it is fun – but only if you’re in the mood for frantic pacing and a high level of mayhem. In other words, it’s a movie that fans of the aforementioned Joe Bob Briggs would appreciate as much as he would. If that’s not you, then stay away.
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