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From Paris With Love (2/10)

by Tony Medley

Run time 95 minutes

Not for children.

In 2006, French director Pierre Morel directed a film called “Taken,” starring Liam Neeson. It wasn’t released in the United States until January of 2009 and it was a sleeper hit. Morel liked the response and the result is this thing that is alleged to be a thriller.

Well, even Babe Ruth struck out, and Morel strikes out here. The first hour is one of the most ridiculous hours of film I’ve had to sit through. Charlie Wax (John Travolta) is an over-the-top, violent psychopath. Wax shoots more bullets in the first hour, and kills so many people in Paris that it’s hard to believe anybody is left alive. The violence is so pervasive it becomes like white noise.

Although James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) has a plum job in Paris as a personal aide to the U.S. Ambassador in France and a beautiful French girlfriend, Caroline (Kasia Smutniak), his desire is to become a CIA operative. He does some clandestine stuff and then is told to pick up someone at the airport. That person turns out to special agent Charlie Wax.

Wax is a trigger-happy maniac, a loose cannon who’s been sent to Paris to stop a terrorist attack. The result is an absurd shooting spree through the Parisian underworld. James reluctantly tags along but then he realizes there’s no turning back…and that Wax himself might be his only hope for getting out alive. Exacerbating the idiocy of the story is the performance of Rhys Meyers, who sometimes sounds like he’s making a bad audition on “American Idol.”

Suddenly, after the first hour, however, the film gets interesting. That only lasts for 20 minutes, though. Then it becomes just as ridiculous as the first hour.

The sad part of this is that with a reasonable story it could have been an interesting film. There is a mystery, after all, but we don’t learn about it until after the first hour’s mayhem. Too bad Morel didn’t clue us in to this fact before the source of the mystery is discovered, and we finally learn about its existence.

Well, there is a mystery as to what Wax is up to, also. But that’s not the real mystery. I can’t tell you what it is because it would be a spoiler, although, truth be told, there’s nothing here to spoil. There is a dénouement that solves a problem that isn’t made clear until it’s almost solved. When the issue is finally raised by Wax, I was unaware that it existed, and I was watching the film closely, trying to determine what in the world was going on.

If you want to see guns being fired, save your money and go to the firing range. This incoherent, poorly written, directed, and acted, profanity-laden outing is agonizing to sit through.

January 28, 2010