From Paris with Love (2010)
Some people have made the mistake of confusing From Paris with Love with the thriller and have subsequently criticised it for its failings within that genre. The thing is it’s patently not a thriller or a spy drama. It’s a textbook action film and a throwback to the 1980s. As such its merits are rather straight forward and easy to define. If you are looking for a slick, formulaic, shoot ‘em up set against the backdrop of Paris, complete with wise-ass dialogue and two personable lead actors then director Pierre Morel delivers in spades. The ludicrous premise, flagrant breaking of possibly every French law in existence and the sheer volume of carnage should not be over analysed. Action movies are not intended to stimulate debate or provoke deep thought. Their job is to entertain.
Diplomatic aide James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) gets the opportunity to ingratiate himself with the CIA and potentially further his career, by “facilitating” special agent Charlie Wax (John Travolta) operation in Paris. The chalk and cheese pair clash as they rampage through the city, decimating sundry drug dealers, terrorists and suicide bombers. Bodies pile up, quips are made, mirth and merriment abounds (within the parameters of the action movie genre). Xenophobia is also exalted, national stereotypes are trotted out and every bullet hit is a fatal through and through. There are even some Pulp Fiction references. Yet all of these points work within the scope of the movie. The entire film is very much a knowing wink to the audience.
From Paris with Love does not re-invent the genre. But what it does do during its ninety minute running time, it does well. The action scenes and fights are well choreographed, filmed and edited. The characters although totally implausible are quite likeable. The only deviation from the norm happens in the third act when an element of pathos is introduced that I was not expecting. Still, it doesn’t derail the proceedings. This not a human drama about the pressure of working in the intelligence community, nor is it a dissertation of the nature of terrorism. It’s an action movie pure and simple and it is not ashamed to be so.
Although not as good as Taken or District 13, the director’s previous work, From Paris with Love is a perfectly acceptable genre offering, delivering the goods in a competent fashion. It also benefits from the added bonus of the disconcertingly watchable Travolta and a very picturesque Gallic setting. It also eschews the contemporary penchant for PG-13 rated action. This is an R rated movie complete with bullet hits and blood splatter; usually all over the walls and the supporting cast. From Paris with Love is a Friday night entertainment for sure but a solid example of the genre. If you want a serious political thriller with similar international locations, then you may be better off with one of the various movie adaptations of John le Carré’s work.