As an avid Luc Besson fan, I've been pretty psyched for this movie since the first trailer I saw for it. I'm a Besson fan from his directorial best (Leon) to his simply produced fair (Transporter). The only movie that hasn't really made me happy was Arthur and the Invisibles... but everyone has their misses, right? Now, it's been a little while since Besson has done a tried-and-true action-comedy, the last I can recall being Wasabi, which was a lot of fun. And now he gives us this one.
James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is like the grunt worker for the special ops--changing license plates for getaway cars or planting chips in government offices. He just tries to make it through the day with his girlfriend, Caroline (Kasia Smutniak), and hopes for a promotion to a full-out specials ops agent. Well, he gets his wish, but it's not exactly what he'd expected. He's teamed up with partner Charlie Wax (John Travolta) who has some strange methods in getting the job done. A bit gun crazy (or crazy in general), Wax walks a fine line between right and wrong, leaving Reece wondering whether their mission is legit or just some personal scheme of Wax's. But the deeper they get into the case, the more Reece discovers about both Wax and himself.
One thing that surprised me about this movie is its more intricate story. Besson, as of late, had seemed to give us pretty straight-forward plots: Taken--man fights to get his daughter back; Transporter--a driver stops bad criminals; District B13--parkour cops stop gangs; Angel-A--an angel helps a man pay back the thugs he owes. Don't get me wrong, I love these movies, but mysteries they aren't. You can pretty much figure out what's gonna happen in these films. From Paris With Love isn't super deep or anything, but it throws some twists and turns at you that you really don't expect. It zigs when you expect it to zag, in other words. It could have been your basic "buddy cop" movie, but it took it a step further.
Imagine if Training Day were an action-comedy instead of a crime thriller. Actually, there's a scene that's almost exactly from Training Day that clicked with me as it was happening (where Wax gives Reece an ultimatum--take drugs or get out of here and lose this newly appointed promotion). And speaking of other movie references, there's a great little Pulp Fiction reference about halfway in... not to mention Tarantino-esque dialogue about the grammatical use of mother-f***er, which introduces us to the character of Charlie Wax.
Wax himself is a great character. Sure, he's a one-note character. You don't really know much about him, and he doesn't really change throughout the movie. But he's freakin' fun and hilarious, and he's probably one of Travolta's best since Vince Vega (though that's probably not hard to do considering Travolta's roles since Vince Vega). I hope to see more of this character in the future, because listening to his quick talk, wit, and one-liners was the highlight of the movie.
The character of Reece was alright. Nothing exciting, especially juxtaposed with Wax, but he wasn't overly boring or anything. He was relatable enough to watch for an hour and a half. Though if I had any major negatives of the film, both would stem from this character. The first is that the first 15 minutes or however long it is before Wax is introduced is almost painfully slow. It's all necessary, but there's no action, no comedy (except maybe the gum/chip scene)... it's almost just a day or two in the life of this almost boring guy. The second is, well, a bit of a spoiler... so I really don't wanna get into it here. It deals with the major twist in the movie (which is a good one--there's just one aspect of it that irked me, coming from a comment made by Reece).
Anyway, overall, I really enjoyed the movie. It had good action, good comedy, and, albeit taking a few things from other movies, a good story. But the best part, hands down, was Travolta's turn as Charlie Wax. Now to get excited about Besson's next flick, one he actually wrote and directed (which he hasn't done since Angel-A... since I don't count the "Arthur" movies), and which literally looks like nothing he's ever done before. But for now, let's send some love for Paris.
A Keanu 'Whoa'
(P.S. Gotta love that poster).