John Travolta loves to be bad. And so he is clearly having a blast — in both senses of the word — in this film, playing a bald guy with an earring who likes to shoot first and think later. As Charlie Wax, a top ops guy who loves to break rules and mess with heads, he gives new meaning to the word trigger-happy.
If only it was as much fun for the audience. But this movie was clearly more about entertaining the star than the ticket-buyers. Wax arrives in Paris noisy and obnoxious, arguing with security about bringing his “energy drink” into the country. Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a straight-laced, chess master, embassy aide who is hoping for a promotion to black ops, slaps a diplomatic sticker on Wax’s bag to get him through. Then they are off for an odd-couple buddy-cop joy ride that involves drug dealers, terrorists, and many opportunities for shooting first and not sticking around to ask questions later. For no particular reason, Reece ends up carrying a vase filled with cocaine through many different locations like takeout.
Even by the low bar for this genre, “From Paris With Love” feels under-scripted. There are a few good set-ups from director Pierre Morel (“District B13”), including a scene in a stairwell where our updates on the action come from the bodies falling past a stunned Reece and a shoot-out in a warehouse filled with mannequins lined up like terra cotta warriors. But it misses when it asks us to take Wax even a little bit seriously as a good guy. The title’s reference to James Bond and a painful reminder of Travolta’s better days in “Pulp Fiction” just ring hollow. Return to sender.
This chart by David Honnorat is an astonishingly elegant display of classic movies. (Click on the link in the last sentence for a larger view.)
It’s “I Love the 80’s Week” as the summer kicks off into high gear. I call these “Lunchbox Movies” because I believe the only reason remakes like this get made is that the now-grown-up studio executives were such fans as kids that they carried the lunchboxes. That’s why we have “The Karate Kid,” more a re-imagining than a remake of the 1984 original, with Jaden Smith (son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith) as an American kid in China who learns Kung Fu (so maybe it should be called “The Kung Fu Kid,” but oh, well). Instead of Japanese Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) in the original, this one has martial arts superstar Jackie Chan as the handyman who happens to be a kung fu master.
And then there’s “The A-Team,” based on the 1983-87 television series starring George Peppard, Mr. T, Dirk Benedict, and Dwight Schultz as members of a ragtag team of former military operatives, wrongfully accused and dishonorably discharged, who go around righting wrongs and kicking butts — and blowing things up, big time. The movie version stars Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, District 9‘s Sharlto Copley, and Ultimate Fighting Champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
Reviews coming soon — stay tuned!