Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - From Paris With Love

Ok folks, back again, this with From Paris With Love, a new actioner produced by Luc Besson. Besson has for the past twenty-odd years been on a steamroller in redefining action cinema and for a time, alongside John Woo, was the best action film-maker in the world. Having directed films such as Nikita, Leon which is one of my favourite films and The Fifth Element, Luc Besson is certainly experienced in this genre. Also, whilst having for most of the last decade resigned to the position of producer, has produced action films such as The Transporter series, District 13 and Taken. This film reunites him with Taken director Pierre Morel, so hey presto, we have a great action movie on our hands. Story goes basically that aide to the U.S Ambassador in France James Reese, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who is getting engaged to his fiance, is genuinely passionate about working for the CIA. However, on the night of his engagement an assignment lands in his lap in working with new partner Charlie Wax, played by John Travolta. Reese ends up in deeper than he expects whenever he finds that Wax is in Paris on a special assignment to uncover a cocaine drugs wing in the Paris criminal underworld. Now, to start with the good about the film, one cannot help but feel slightly charmed by Travolta. No, by no means is it a great performance, and he is doing the whole "Travolta gone mad" performance that we have seen him do before, but the man has a degree of charisma and does bring out a few giggles. The scene in which we are introduced to him is the funniest scene in the film, having already irked the French customs officials over him bringing a case of his favourite energy drink into the country. Saying that, it is frightening to think of the standard of films that Travolta has been in and how he has now really sank to playing caricatures and not characters these days. The film has even reduced itself to making an "oh isn't so funny" reference to the "Royale-With-Cheese" dialogue between Travolta and Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction. I'm sorry, but when a film harks back to another film in an attempt to be cool someone needs to be there with a whip to get them to stop. What must really be credited on this film is the technical aspects. The film is shot very well by Michel Abramowicz, who thankfully manages to let us see what is going on. It is a nice change every now and again to see an action sequence or car chase that isn't shot in the hyper methadrone/cokehead style that is employed by every cinematographer after Paul Greengrass' Bourne films. Yeah, the choreography isn't anything special by any means, for all of the action sequences bar the third act car chase effectively look the same, but at least we can see what is going on. It does not matter what is going on, the audience will not be interested if they cannot see what is going on. Abramowicz' work, alongside the editing by Frederic Thoraval attempt to establish some sense of what is going on. As such, even though they do for the most part look the same, at least with regards to the action sequences we have something to look at. However, bar this, there is not much else good about From Paris With Love. Rhys Meyers fails to do anything with the shoddy part that has been given to him, no thanks to a really terrible screenplay. Written by Besson and Adi Hasak, this screenplay would be a really good parody of the action genre, or even an action-comedy vehicle for Rhys Meyers and Travolta like the Lethal Weapon sequels, but unfortunately it is not meant to be an action-comedy. Even still, despite my attempts to answer it's genre, I am at times perplexed as to the overall mood of the film. The wisecracking of Wax mean it has a comedic element, but unfortunately this unbalanced by swift mood shifts in other directions. At times it seems to attempting to go for a hard edge reminiscent to Training Day, signalled of course by Reese and Wax indulging in cocaine to blend in in their job environment. Then, following the most ludicrous plot twist, which through sheer stubborness I will not spoil, it takes a turn for the worst, and we see a film on a much deeper level, in which we are meant to penetrating deep into the character's minds. Furthermore, Reese is definitely more unbalanced than Wax. Even in Travolta-gone-mad format he retains at least a consistently energy of madness, whereas the character of Reese is constantly up-and-down-up-and-down. Honest to god, the man clearly has a hormonal imbalance, which of course is justified in the film by psychological trauma. Anyway, the screenplay is really dull and packed with cliches throwing in the odd quip which is vaguely amusing by Travolta. Director Morel also really fails to do much to what is already a shoddy set of elements. It's as though he just shrank the actors and a replica of Paris, which he just let loose and shot that. This is uncontrolled madness not quite at it's worst, but certainly not on the right side of good.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 3.9/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Indifferent

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