From Paris With Love is a dumb, loud, and obnoxious movie. I felt insulted that I paid money to effectively be made fun of by the director for being stupid enough to watch his film. I did not see Pierre Morel’s Taken last year, but if From Paris With Love is anything like it, I don’t see myself seeing the former anytime soon.

This heap of garbage is about a personal assistant (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) to some American diplomat, but whose real job is as a junior secret agent to some American intelligence agency (not the CIA apparently). Up until now, Meyers’ assignments have been small stuff like planting secret surveillance bugs on politicians and swapping out license plates on cars. He’s itching to get his hands on a more juicy assignment involving some excitement. Enter John Travolta. Meyers is assigned as Travolta’s partner on a mission that involves drug dealers and terrorists (AKA lots of guns and lots of explosions).

Travolta seems to have found himself a niche lately playing extremely vulgar crazy psychos (see last year’s The Taking of Pelham 123). Now I actually enjoyed Pelham 123 because of the nice counterplay by Denzel Washington, but this movie solely depends on Travolta to make or break the film and he, unfortunately, breaks it in half. Nevermind that Travolta’s character is a completely unlikeable asshole (in fact, no character in this movie is likeable). I don’t believe there was a single line of dialogue that wasn’t yelled out rather than simply spoken. Its as if the screenplay described his character to be played as a stereotypically abrasive American tourist (it was after all written by Frenchman, Luc Besson). One final gripe I had about Travolta’s character was how perfectly and effortlessly he gets through every bind he’s in. He manages to kill every bad guy without ever missing and never once does he seem to be in danger. I know this film isn’t supposed to be realistic, but it steps over the boundary of plausibility to the point of ridiculousness.

As for Jonathan Rhys Meyers, I’ve discovered that he’s not much of an actor (even in the fantastic Match Point). In all fairness I have not seen The Tudors, which I hear he is great in. However, based on what I have seen of him, he seems to rely too much on looking handsome to get by rather than on any real talent. He reminds me of another actor whose looks are more of a curse than a blessing: Jude Law. Unlike Law, whose acting talents are stupendous and he is not afraid to change his appearance to improve on his characters, Meyers’ performance is flat and his looks prevented me from believing in his character.

The plot of the movie felt like something out of 24. I don’t have anything against stories involving terrorists, but considering the sheer abundance of stories involving our Middle Eastern baddies, the bar has been set pretty high on what works and what doesn’t these days. Its hard to pull off an original and interesting story involving terrorism instead of something that comes off as being derivative. I didn’t care for the story here and the filmmakers failed to impress upon me the level of danger the characters were going through.

The buddy action comedy genre is one that was pretty much perfected in the 80s by the Lethal Weapon franchise, Beverly Hills Cop, and the movie Midnight Run. Those movies all had in common a strong chemistry between the main characters. In fact, the characters were so interesting and fun to watch that you didn’t really care whether or not the story was original or whether the bad guys were complex or richly drawn. It was all about watching Mel Gibson and Danny Glover interact with each other. Most importantly, you CARED about them. You cared whether or not they lived or died. From Paris With Love has none of this. Never once do you see Travolta and Meyers warm up to each other. Never once do you really care if either of them lives or dies. Their characters are forced to pair up in the story and their forced pairing never evolves into one of friendship and respect until the very last scene, at which point its too late for the audience.

Finally, I had an issue with the action scenes and their settings. If you’re going to give me a shitty story and shitty characters, at the very LEAST you can provide your audience with exciting action sequences. Once again, the filmmakers fail to even provide this little crumb. First of all, the action sequences are nothing we have not seen before in countless other action movies. There wasn’t the excitement and originality you see in the elaborate action sets in films like the Jason Bourne trilogy or in the recent James Bond films. The action felt tired and uninspired with characters simply running around and shooting guns at each other. If you’re setting a film in Paris, shouldn’t you be using locations like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre for your action sets? Instead we get a ghetto project and a Chinese restaurant. Were we even in Paris??

From Paris With Love is a mess of a movie and I will be dismayed if it makes a killing at the box office this weekend. Pierre Morel is scheduled to direct the remake of Dune next and after watching this movie I sorely wish he calls in sick and drops out of that project. If you’re looking for something to watch in theaters this weekend, stick to the Oscar nominees that are being re-released this week and get your money’s worth.

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