From Paris - with Travolta, bombs and gunfire
Film of the week: Non-stop action from Travolta and Rhys-Meyers - but little else
What more could a young British actor hope for? Jonathan Rhys-Meyers's first big role in a Hollywood movie sees the actor who played Henry VIII in TV's The Tudors starring opposite the great John Travolta and the hot model-turned-actress Kasia Smutniak in a film made by Pierre Morel, director of last year's surprise hit Taken.
Sadly, while the thrill seekers will doubtless enjoy From Paris With Love, it’s the sort of all-action film that is unlikely to feature prominently on Rhys-Meyers’s showreel when he's on the hunt for an Oscar-worthy role in the future.
The plot of From Paris With Love is noteworthy only for playing it safe. Even compared with the throngs of other buddy movies that currently gather dust in petrol station discount bins, this film is remarkable for breaking absolutely no new boundaries.
The film begins with Reese (Rhys-Meyers) who combines a job working as an assistant at the US Embassy in Paris with being a low-level CIA operative. His life seems bland in comparison with his dreams of secret operations and subterfuge.
Needless to say, his prayers are quickly answered when he is given his first mission alongside a bald-headed, ear-ringed new partner, Wax (John Travolta). Rhys-Meyers's function as the uptight straight man to Travolta's loose cannon is made clear from the off, as Reese is forced to rescue Wax from Customs for trying to sneak in a suitcase full of energy drinks.
What follows is pretty convoluted. As Variety's Andrew Barker puts it, the film "makes little attempt to explain the conspiracy the pair are tasked with unraveling… [the film's] villains turn from Chinese coke dealers to Pakistani suicide bombers without explanation."
Redeeming features include some camped up acting from Travolta, the stunning Smutniak who plays Rhys-Meyers's girlfriend and, of course, the action which Stephen Holden of the New York Times admitted to relishing even if it is "action for action’s sake".
As for Rhys-Meyers, well, better luck next time – which will be an adaptation by Brendan Gleeson of the Brian O'Nolan novel At Swim-Two-Birds, in which Rhys-Meyers gets to act alongside Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy and Gabriel Byrne.
WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING:
David Jenkins, Time Out: "Pierre Morel composes the action sequences with the balletic sheen of Hong Kong-era John Woo, but it’s not enough to allow the film to rise above its guilty-until-proven-innocent conception of justice. Reprehensible, then, but what fun!" (3/5 stars)
Wesley Morris, the Boston Globe: "The climax involves a bomb, a kind of djellaba garment and a speech about love. You have to see it to believe it and I'm not saying you should."
Angie Errigo, Empire: "The plot is simultaneously simplistic and hard to follow, but almost incidental to the testosterone fumes." (3/5 stars)
Stephen Holden, the New York Times: "I am ashamed to admit that this empty-headed, preposterous, possibly evil melange of gunplay and high-speed car chases on Parisian boulevards is a feel-good movie that produces a buzz. Even more than Taken, a kidnapping drama with the semblance of a heart, From Paris With Love wallows in action for action’s sake." ·
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