Montreal Film Journal


I've been fond of Pierre Morel ever since he came onto the scene with the wildly enjoyable "Banlieue 13", which he followed with the totally badass "Taken". Both films were loved by movie-movie fans, but generally dismissed by critics, which kinda annoyed me. I mean, sure, the guy makes dumb, loud and violent B-movies... That's the whole point! What I like about Morel is that he's one of the few filmmakers left in the world who still make action flicks like they used to in the 1980s: old-school movies in which ridiculously macho heroes punch, kick and shoot their way through countless bad guys, stopping only to deliver one-liners and to blow shit up!

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.