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Wax On, Wax Off
Today’s movie was a total whim-watch. I saw it on Netflix streaming and I said “…Yeah, I think I’ll do that.” I remember it coming out and thought “Meh”, but that was before I was an Indie Movie Reviewer. With my current “job” title, I felt this was a good enough excuse. And that is the very short, fairly pointless story behind my decision to watch From Paris with Love, written by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak, directed by Pierre Morel, and starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, John Travolta, Kasia Smutniak, Richard Durden and Amber Rose Revah.
James Reese (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is a personal aide to a U.S. Ambassador in France, but he has aspirations to get a promotion in his side job; to go from low-ranking CIA operative to high-ranking CIA operative. He’s also engaged to a French girl named Caroline (Kasia Smutniak). He gets the promotion opportunity in the form of a temporary partner by the name of Charlie Wax (John Travolta). James is a bit of a by the books kind of guy, but Charlie likes killing people. They start in on a drug ring in France and that leads them into a plot to unleash a suicide bomber in a meeting that Reese’s boss, Ambassador Bennington (Richard Durden), will be at. And then they must stop it.
It didn’t take very long to get through the story of this movie, mainly because it’s not super plot heavy. It’s pretty much just a big dumb action movie, but it also seems to try to use the fact that they cast John Travolta in it to try to hardcore swagger jack Quentin Tarantino. And they try to do that a pretty good amount, so much so that I wonder how they got away with it. I assume Travolta is why they get away with it, but it could also be because they did a piss poor job of it and it flew under the radar. I had heard Travolta’s character compared to his performance in Pulp Fiction, and there are similarities, but it’s more like Vincent hopped up on Red Bull through the entire movie. They try to emulate Tarantino’s dialogue style, but you can only talk about things that have nothing to do with the movie if it’s well-written and interesting. No one told them this. They did totally throw a couple of “Royal with Cheese” references in the movie, which I would normally think was funny that they referenced another of an actor’s really famous performances, but when I had already been thinking that they were trying to rip off Tarantino, that joke only served to cement it. The rest of the story was no more interesting than the dialogue. It’s pretty simple and the only surprise they go for I thought in about the first 10 minutes of the movie. It happened in a similar way as I predicted the end of The Village when I leaned over to my friend in the very first scene of the movie and said ::DIFFERENT MOVIE SPOILER ALERT:: “I bet it’s going to turn out to be 1998 outside of the village”, and then I was right.::END SPOILER:: I thought that as a joke! Why would you actually make it a plot point?! Well, that’s how I did it here too. I thought it was too obvious to happen, but it did. And, because I like to, let’s talk things that didn’t make sense to me. There was a huge plot point in this movie about Rhys-Meyers trying to charge his phone. After it first died from low battery, he took the battery out, rubbed it against his sleeve, and tried it again. Do you think this shit charges from static electricity?! You’d have to do it a lot longer than that! Also, the last big speech to talk the suicide bomber out of getting in on all those sweet, sweet virgins in heaven did not work for me at all. The dialogue seemed rushed and crappy/sappy, but the actual end of that scene did catch me off guard. It was not as I expected at all.
There were only about 3 notable performances in this movie altogether: Rhys-Meyers, Travolta, and maybe a little Smutniak. All of them pretty mediocre. Rhys-Meyers never really did anything to make me pay attention to him. He had a little love story going on, a little trial and tribulations with love and work, a little bit of rising to the call when you’re needed, a little bit of reaching a breaking point with something, but none of which really worked for me. Travolta’s performance was mediocre, but in a different way. There were parts of this movie where Travolta was a badass, usually around the fighting and shooting scenes. He worked in these scenes. But then the character would just get on my nerves in the rest of the scenes. And when you’re half good, half bad, you come out just mediocre. Speaking of which, Kasia Smutniak. Her character was important to the story, but rarely featured in person. She shows up in the beginning as the girlfriend, pops up briefly in the middle, then is a big part in the end. The rest of the movie she’s just on the phone or being talked about. I found her character arc to be fairly predictable and I wasn’t interested.
The only real reason I can think of to watch this movie is the action scenes. They’re mostly well done. There are a couple of good shootout scenes, a couple good fist fights, and at least one decent car chase. The best of them was probably the fist fight where Travolta single-handedly whoops up 8 dudes with melee weapons. That scene was pretty badass. I could’ve used some more good action, but the scenes that were there were well done.
This is a thoroughly okay, perhaps forgettable, movie. The story of the movie is a bit straight forward, and dialogue either attempts to rip off Quentin Tarantino or just straight out sucks, but it’s got some solid action that might make the movie good enough to look at. I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone, but it is available on Netflix streaming, so if you’ve got nothing better to do and just wanna see some punch face and shoot things, you could do worse. From Paris with Love gets “Shoot the fucker” out of “Did you save the world again, baby”.
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