Here, the cartoonish one-man-army is Charlie Wax (a giddily overacting John Travolta), a bald, goateed, earring-wearing, overweight, foul-mouthed American brute who bulldozers through everything first and thinks things through later, if at all. In “From Paris With Love”, he’s paired with James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a low-level CIA operative stationed in France who’s everything Wax isn’t: methodical, diplomatic and kind of a pussy. In the great tradition of odd couple comedies, the two soon find themselves partners, chasing Chinese mobsters and Pakistani terrorists around Paris.
As written by Luc Besson (also a producer here, as he was for Morel’s previous movies), “From Paris With Love” takes a little while to get going, but once the action starts, it barely ever stops, the preposterous plot rushing forward as the body count rises to nearly John Woo levels. By the time Travolta is hanging out the window of a speeding car with a rocket-launcher on his shoulder, if you don’t have a smile on you’re face, clearly you’re in the wrong theater.
Now, this isn’t a great film by any definition, not even compared to “Banlieue 13”, which featured more impressive and inventive stunts, or “Taken”, which packed the extra thrill of watching Liam Neeson kick some serious ass. But Pierre Morel’s latest is still a lot of fun if you take it for what it is.