Given just how many of the Bloglin’s writing staff fell head-over-heels for Taken, I was surprised no one ventured out to see From Paris With Love on its opening weekend. Perhaps it’s that impulse you get to simply stay away upon seeing Travolta with top billing in a film… But I felt Pierre Moral’s second feature film for the American market deserved a chance, regardless of the cast, and so a few weeks after its release, I just had to know if he could deliver once again.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays James Reece, a diplomatic aide stationed in France, who is slowly trying to work his way into becoming a special operative. Reece receives mysterious phone calls with menial espionage assignments that, while essential, mostly keep him out of harm’s way. But one night, that all changes… Reece is asked to head into action and pick up another operative who is being held in customs, and assist him on his assignment that night. Think of it as a test, you do good and you’re in the “club”, he’s told. That other operative is, of course, John Travolta, as the bald-headed Charlie Wax.
What ensues is your classic action movie odd couple dynamic that you’ve seen a million times before. Travolta is the wild one and Meyers is the guy with the stick up his ass. Like chocolate paired with peanut-butter, they just work together. Meyers follows, err, assists Travolta as he wreaks havoc through the streets, back alleys, and coke dens of Paris, slaughtering one group of baddies after another until he gets to the top of the food chain. Each leg of their assignment is just as much about testing Meyer’s fortitude as an operative as it is about stopping a heinous plot from befalling Americans at home and abroad. It’s kind of like Training Day, except morality doesn’t really come into the picture here. Travolta’s character is like a more believably-scripted G.I. Joe hero than anyone depicted in that movie, and the action sequences here are infintley more enjoyable and plentiful.
Moral follows much of the same formula as in Taken, which made both movies so mesmerizing. Long intense stretches of action and mayhem, followed by 10 or so minutes of “plot”. Hell, he even goes back to the well for a few of the same tricks that made you go “Oh shit!!” while watching Taken. But it really doesn’t matter if it’s been done before, because not only can Moral make the old fresh again, it just simply works for making an action movie exciting and enjoyable from start to finish. And while From Paris with Love may not be as good of a movie as Taken, it’s just as entertaining. And that’s what I’m really looking for out of an action movie… 90 minutes free from boredom, and From Paris with Love delivers!
Those who stayed away from From Paris With Love because of Travolta, fear not… he’s appropriately hammy in this role. I’m under the firm belief that much like Nicolas Cage, when in the hands of a good director, the stars can align and transform his acting inadequacies into strengths. Just think of Face-Off (truly a clash of the titans!) and you’ll know what I mean. Moral gets just enough schmaltz out of Travolta to lend the action sequences a perfect shade of over-the-top comic book believability that most actual comic book movies fail on delivering. Plus, as cheesy as it was, I gotta give him props for using the opportunity of having Travolta in Paris to play homage to Pulp Fiction.
Pierre Moral knows action, and is simply the best action director since John Woo. In all his movies, he manages to transform Paris from the city of love into the scariest city in the world. If you were a fan of Taken, go see this, you’ll be thoroughly entertained…I guarantee that. Now we just have to wait and see what Moral does with Dune, which I’m infinitely more excited for now than ever.