From Paris With Love is another fast paced thriller from Luc Besson’s Europacorp – the company behind Taken, The Transporter series, 22 Bullets, Crimson Rivers, District 13 and far too many others to mention. What I really like about Europacorp is that they have taken a genre that is dying in Hollywood – that being the B-Grade action film (everything tries to be a blockbuster these days) – and re-invented it in Europe. And the films work. They aren’t high art. They are throwaway pop confections, but they deliver on the action and thrills – and are usually buoyed by a big name actor whose star is on the wain (but not worthless). Much like the Spaghetti Westerns in the 1960s revitalised some aging American actors careers, Europacorp has added some dash to Liam Neeson, Jean Reno and John Travolta’s careers. Not that these guys were struggling for work, but they certainly weren’t the box-office draws that they were ten years ago.
From Paris With Love first introduces James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who works at the US Embassy in Paris, as an aid to the Ambassador. But beside that, he is also a covert operative for an un-named US intelligence agency. However, Reece is not a high level operative at all. His missions routinely involve changing the number plates for cars that other more senior operatives will use in their missions. He is little more than a gopher.
One day he gets his chance to prove himself when he is asked to partner (for that read ‘chauffeur’) foul-mouthed agent Charlie Wax (John Travolta). It appears that Wax has run afoul of French customs attempting to smuggle some energy drinks into the country. Reece comes to the rescue by using his embassy position to declare the energy drinks are in fact ‘diplomatic mail’. On route back from the airport, Wax reveals that the cans actually hid the pieces to his pistol, which he quickly reassembles. Then he demands to be taken to a Chinese restaurant for some Egg Fu Yong. Within moments Wax has picked a fight with the waiter and is shooting up the place. The restaurant happens to be a front for a cocaine distribution network, and the staff fight back with machine guns. Reece quickly realises that he may be in over his head, and field work may be considerably different to what he expected.
From then on, the film is a fast paced thrill ride where Wax, and Reece tear apart Paris – well Wax tries to tear it apart, and Reece operates as ‘damage control’ and possibly a conscience for Wax’s excessive and aggressive approach to his anti-terrorist activities. Yes, I know that cocaine distribution isn’t really a terrorist activity, but as the two operatives follow the distribution chain, they find out there is more to the network than they first realised.
Enjoyment from watching From Paris With Love depends on one thing, and that is if you enjoy Travolta’s foul-mouthed and furious performance. I for one, didn’t mind it, and he carries the film with his outbursts of violence and at times hilarious dialogue. But I can see how he could rub some viewers the wrong way, and as such their enjoyment of the film would be diminished.
From Paris With Love won’t change your life, but it delivers fast paced thrills, explosions, gun play and car crashes. The plot twist, any seasoned viewer will spot a mile off, but that shouldn’t detract from the enjoyment of the film. Switch your brain to neutral and enjoy the ride.