Skinhead Travolta Chokes on Cop Cliches in Video Game From Hell

    Awash in dark, blue-grey lighting and set in a classically romantic international city, “From Paris With Love” doesn’t exactly scream action-packed CIA film. However, in spite of itself, director Pierre Morel manages to give the flick a bit of original edge before it collapses into a routine partners-in-crime fighting flick we all know and tolerate.

    James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a fresh-faced, newly engaged assistant to a U.S. ambassador in France who is about to be assigned his first mission as a big-time CIA agent. Partnered with break-the-rules badass Charlie Wax (John Travolta), the two embark on what appears to be a run-of the-mill drug bust. The job quickly transforms into a mad dash to prevent a terrorist attack, with little explanation as to how the former mutated into the latter.

    Shaved bald enough to make Mr. Clean jealous, Wax struts around shooting just about anything with a pulse. Tired of the rest of the world talking shit about the US? Wax busts hordes of Chinese, Middle Eastern, and even French drug dealers while peppering the action with one-liner gems like “Wax on, Wax off!” Meanwhile, Reece lumbers along the sidelines, occasionally grumbling about having to drag around a vase full of coke like a pack mule, gun sitting forgotten in his holster.

    The film doesn’t task itself with explanations, but rather entangles itself in its own plot complications, tripping itself every time it changes from one Paris locale to another. Somehow the story falls back down the rabbit hole, reaching a semi-lucid climax with the discovery of Reece’s fiance’s (Kasia Smutniak) intentions to bomb the U.S. ambassador’s meeting.

    Of course, Reece gives that manipulative French temptress what she deserves: one gunshot to the face, loaded with bittersweet irony.

    Dashed with ill-placed, slow-mo action sequences and less than impressive combat, “Love” certainly won’t have “Watchmen” shaking in its heavily inked boots. Even so, the thriller’s haphazardly timed deaths add a much-needed shock factor, poking fun at Wax’s Terminator-like efficiency, as Reece dodges a rain of bloody, mangled corpses issuing from the top of a stairwell. The chuckles keep coming, thanks to a well-played performance by Travolta as woman-rider Wax and the shenanigans of desk-jockey Reece.

    “Love’s” excess of blood, explosions and hookers throughout hint that writer Luc Besson has spent far too much time playing Grand Theft Auto, resulting in a film sans creative dialogue, heaped with flashy explosions and plenty of gun smoke. Ultimately, it’s the actors and cinematography that pick up the slack.

    But never mind that; this is about violence, sex and kick-ass American good guys in Paris’ grimy streets. Even plot holes go down easier with a fistful of coke and a quart — or in this case, a liter of blood.

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