In the 1988 cinematic masterpiece They Live, Roddy Piper uttered the classic line, “I’ve come to chew bubblegum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubblegum.” So it is with John Travolta’s latest From Paris with Love only instead of bubblegum, Travolta has come to chew scenery…and there’s plenty of it. He plays Charlie Wax, an unorthodox loose-cannon of a spy who, of course, has the perfect solution for every situation regardless of how ridiculous that solution might initially appear to be. Partnered with James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), diplomat’s assistant by day/entry-level secret agent desperate for a promotion by night, Wax wages a one-man war in the streets of Paris in an effort to stop…um, recover…or possibly find….um, something? Maybe. Who knows? None of it matters. This is The John Travolta Show. It’s Travolta in his full-on, over-the-top ham-boniest. [morelink]
This is the sort of movie where our dynamic-duo can go unnoticed while killing an entire street gang or hanging out the side of a car with a rocket-launcher…in broad daylight…in rush hour traffic. It’s complete and utter nonsense. To protest plot holes would be tantamount to complaining about watermelon shrapnel at a Gallagher show…you knew what you were in for when you bought the ticket. You either like its brand of “big dumb fun” or you don’t.
Travolta gets in a few good lines, many bad lines and one notable groaner when he references one of his previous (and much better) movies. However, his performance, though lively, feels like it comes from an entirely different movie. He’s a veritable cartoon character while everyone around him feels like they’re angling to be in the next Bourne film. For what it’s worth, Travolta is making the better movie.
Ultimately a movie like this lives and dies with the quality of its action scenes. Unfortunately, the film’s focal point is an aging movie star. If John Travolta is John Wayne, then we are very much in the “McQ Era.” Aging and bloated, he’s coasting on charisma and fond memories of a tough-guy persona. In an effort to disguise this fact, most of the film’s fight scenes rely on shaky, handheld camera work combined with hyperactive-editing. I know someone (or multiple someones) just got their butt kicked in pretty short-order, I’m just not exactly quite sure how. Or, truth be told, why.