Zoom! Boom! Pow!
From Paris with Love introduces viewers to Charlie Wax, a spy who behaves like Jack Bauer on amphetamines. As played by an almost unrecognizable John Travolta, Charlie seems to enjoy rampaging through Paris as he and his new partner rush from one dangerous situation to another on their mission, which involves drug dealings as well as an upcoming terrorist attack. Jonathan Rhys Meyers portrays James Reece, the bewildered yet ambitious U.S. Embassy employee who must accompany Charlie during his time in Paris. Although Travolta and Rhys Meyers make an unlikely duo, they get into their roles with gusto. And the fast-paced action here is exciting to watch.
We’ve seen Travolta successfully camouflage his appearance before. When I saw him playing a woman in Hairspray, I completely forgot he was Travolta, the mega movie star. In From Paris with Love, he reminds me of Tony Luke Jr. – star of The Nail. He’s bald, heavy-set, and bearded like the lead character in that excellent film about a boxer released from prison who tries to change his life. But Charlie Wax’s actions are much more aggressive. Charlie uses more than his fists to wreak violence, and Travolta lets Charlie go over the top in a way that convinces us he’s probably a bit insane.
Rhys Meyers (August Rush) delivers an equally believable performance in the role of James Reece, a man who wants to move up in the intelligence field. Reece is not happy simply playing chess with the U.S. Ambassador and running errands for him. But he never expected anything like Charlie Wax, and Rhys Meyers does a great job showing Reece’s concern over Charlie’s unorthodox methods plus his distrust of Reece’s beautiful live-in love interest (Kasia Smutniak). It’s interesting to see how both men learn to respect each other as a result of being thrown together on this perilous assignment.
Deftly directed by Pierre Morel (Taken) from a timely story and screenplay by Luc Besson (Taken) and Adi Hasak (Shadow Conspiracy) respectively, From Paris with Love boasts surprises, suspense, welcome humor (for example, Travolta singing “Close to You” as only Charlie would do) in addition to its high octane action and fine performances. There’s even a little homage to Pulp Fiction – but if you blink, you might miss it.
Personally, I’m happy to report that after disappointing many fans in Old Dogs, Travolta redeems himself with his take-no-prisoners turn in From Paris with Love.
(Released by Lionsgate and rated “R” for bloody violence throughout, drug content, pervasive language and brief sexuality.)
For more information about this film, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.