Movie News & Reviews

'From Paris with Love' fires in too many directions

It's 3 p.m. on a Saturday, and I'm lying on the floor still inmy pajamas.

One way to look at that is I can't afford furniture or any pants thathave progressed past drawstring technology.

Another way to look at it is as a pretty sweet job perk. What I like even better than theslovenliness this affords me, though, is that over the course ofwatching 75-odd new releases a year, you get exposed to a lot of debutdirectors and can expect to (have to) see whatever they come out withnext. If I liked Taken — and you'd have to be a fool not to,Liam Neeson chopped some serious throats — I could end up following itsdirector for years.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

It's all the fun of having kids, but you only have to see them everyyear or two. Also like kids, sometimes newish directors fall down.Director Pierre Morel's followup to Taken, From Paris withLove is far too much of a blast to be considered a face-skinningsprawl, but it's also too disjointed to get all that worked up about.

As the assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to France, Jonathan RhysMeyers moonlights as a low-level special operative. He's ambitious,though, and once he proves he's ready for the next level, a call comesin with his next job: to partner up with the wild but effective JohnTravolta.

Their mission, according to Travolta, is to crack one of Paris' drugrings. But as the bodies add up, his story doesn't, and Meyers soonfinds himself on the hunt for a terrorist cell readying an attack onthe city.

Morel's Taken was a treat for two types of fans who rarelyoverlap: those who appreciated the realistic application of martialarts, and those who enjoyed the paranoid parental anxiety-fantasieswhere their children are sold into sex slavery. Also anyone who justlike watching asses get kicked. Clearly, Morel brought a lot to thetable.

He impresses much of his particular stamp on From Paris withLove, too. Problem is, it's kind of all over the place.

No doubt it's fun. From about five minutes after he hits the screen,Travolta starts killing so many drug dealers the world's underfundedpublic schools will have to fail overtime to replace them. Therapid-fire action sequences sit somewhere between flashy choreographyand the immediately of the shaky-cam style popularized by theBourne films. Travolta's cannon is so loose that sailors are leapingface-first into the briny deep rather than risk being crushed underits careering wheels.

Thing is, it's not exactly believable. It exists in that alternatecinematic universe where one hero repeatedly slaughters whole legionsof enemy goons. In that universe, when he's shot back, it's always inthe shoulder. The police, if they show up at all, appear when he'salready screeching away. It's a consequence-free world.

Is that in itself a problem? Hell no. Do you know how many people youcan shoot in a consequence-free world? All the people. I don'thave to explain how awesome that is.

From Paris with Love runs into trouble when its woohoo,bang-bang world takes a radical swerve for the serious in its thirdact. It's a jarring shift in tone that suddenly wants its crazy storyto mean something.

Its breathless pacing was already kinda confusing in terms of "OK,now why are they shooting all these guys?" As for Travolta andMeyers' buddy cop dynamic, it works, but it's still a formula. Putthat tonal leap on top of it, and you end up with a movie that,however fun it may be, is struggling in too many different directionsat the same time.

Grade: C+