From Paris With Love
Wed, Feb 3, 2010 (6:15 p.m.)
Some people were just not meant to be bald, and now we know that John Travolta is one of them. From Paris With Love, a tolerably generic action flick conceived and produced by Luc Besson, stars Travolta as loose-cannon CIA agent Charlie Wax, who spends the movie mowing down everything in le sight out of what seems more like sheer boredom than an attempt to foil a terrorist plot. But while the ostensible conflict is the mismatched-buddy relationship between Wax and his temporary partner, straight-arrow ambassador’s aide-cum-moonlighting spy James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), the film’s true war gets waged between Travolta’s brash, nihilistic attitude and that ridiculous shiny pate, hilariously offset by a goatee that looks for all the world like a face merkin. It doesn’t matter how loudly you cackle or how many faceless minority thugs you blow away—you can’t really sell badass when your head constantly provokes memories of the baby wearing sunglasses on the Look Who’s Talking poster.
Still, if you’re feeling a little prestiged-out at the moment—even Avatar, the season’s popcorn bonanza, lumbers along for nearly three hours—From Paris With Love’s brisk 92 minutes of moronic whiz-bang ka-pow may serve as a welcome tonic. Director Pierre Morel, who directed last year’s Taken and 2004’s District 13, knows his way around kinetic mayhem, and he choreographs a few giddy set pieces here, including a circular stairwell that rains falling bodies on Reese after Wax ascends it, and a running gag involving a giant vase full of cocaine. It’s never quite clear how the duo’s mission, which begins in pursuit of an Asian drug cartel, winds up on the trail of Pakistani suicide bombers, but it’s also the kind of movie in which such details don’t especially matter. If you’re in the market for John Travolta saying goofy dialogue while firing automatic weapons, this film delivers. But you may want to wait and see if they digitally paste on a wig for the eventual DVD release.