From Paris With Love Or Royale With Reese

Ash Isaac

John Travolta has been involved in some of the most iconic, memorable, notorious and profitable films in Hollywood history. This is not one of them. Produced by Luc Besson and directed by Pierre Morel, From Paris With Love follows the deadly dealings of an American spy in Paris as he cuts a gratuitous and indiscriminate swathe through a whole host of foreign criminals with guns, knives, RPGs and other assorted weaponry. Not too dissimilar to earlier Paris-based revenge flick Taken produced and directed by… Luc Besson and Pierre Morel. Hmmm.

Jonathan Rhys Myers plays James Reese, a CIA office junior/water boy at the American embassy in Paris. He seemingly divides his time between playing chess with his boss, the ambassador, being asked to do various menial tradecraft tasks by the CIA and indulging in a spot of domestic bliss with his French girlfriend, Caroline. Secretly though, he yearns for the cut and thrust of operational spy work and nags his clandestine masters for an opportunity to show his true worth.

Soon enough he’s being asked to retrieve a high level agency operative who’s been stopped at customs for trying to bring a banned energy drink into France. Enter Charlie Wax, (Travolta) who gives the stereotypical American abroad performance – he’s loud, he’s brash, he’s offensive and he’s also a mad Scientologist (presumably). Reese springs Wax from his customs nightmare and the two head off to a Chinese restaurant to cool off.

Within five minutes of tucking into their Egg Foo Young, Wax has already gone berserk in the restaurant and carried out his first extra-judicial killing. Reese watches dumbfounded as the gleeful Wax proceeds to expertly dispatch the entire staff roster of the restaurant including submachine-wielding sous-chefs and pistol-shooting waiters. Turns out the restaurant is actually an opiate den and just to prove it Wax shoots up the ceiling which starts to rain down several streams of cocaine. Sacre Bleu!

Reese fills up a Ming vase with some of the free-flowing coke, to use as currency for later on you understand, and the two head off to follow up a lead about terrorists or the suchlike. As the old joke goes, only an hour after having a Chinese you’re still not satisfied and so it proves with Wax as he cuts through a Triad street gang who have the temerity to approach him whilst he is parking his gargantuan monstrosity of a car, American-made, of course. Reese, who is more used to seeing casualties on the chessboard, is a little discombobulated by the rapidly growing body count, but Wax just hands him a gun and tells him to join in.

The two of them track a group of terrorists down to a tower block in a rough Parisian banlieue and, you guessed it, slaughter anyone or anything vaguely constituting a threat without suffering so much as a scratch. Wax is blasé enough to rappel down buildings and swing through windows and also offer up an innovative coup de grace by dropping a suicide bomb vest off the top of the building and onto a terrorist getaway car destroying the occupants. Bravo Charlie.

As Wax and Reese investigate further, it transpires that Reese’s loving girlfriend is actually in cahoots with the terrorists and planning on blowing herself up at… an African aid summit. Yikes. Reese reels from this bombshell and wonders if it’s too late to change his mind about becoming engaged to her. The best pre-nup turns out to be a bullet as Reese shoots Caroline before she can activate her device. C’est la vie.

So… while it’s not quite a damp squib, From Paris With Love is definitely no sky-scorching pyrotechnic. The enigma is how something so derivatively copied from Taken could be received with such a lukewarm reception from critics and audience alike. Travolta gives an engaging performance as the volatile and bombastic Wax, and the action set pieces are executed with more than a dash of Gallic flair. Maybe there’s scope for a potential crossover with Neeson and Travolta duking it out atop the Eiffel Tower – Taken From Paris with Love? The refrain, as always for Travoltites, is “at least it’s not Battlefield Earth”.

About Ash Isaac

I am a contributor of questionable taste, origin and talent. My one claim to fame is that I was born in the same hospital as Cliff Richard. I am still in possession of my soul unlike Sir Cliff who sold his to Samael the Desolate in return for eternal youth and the friendship of Sue Barker.