Age is just a number. John Travolta may be 56-years-old, but you would never know from his performance in From Paris with Love. His unusual new do and facial hair cloud the brain at first, but it doesn’t take long for Travolta’s ability to command the screen and a room full of gang members to let you know that this guy means business. Get ready for guns, explosions and a bunch of wisecracks because Charlie Wax has a lot of love to give.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as James Reese, a promising young personal aide to the U.S. Ambassador in France. He’s got a great job, beautiful apartment, loving girlfriend and a bright future, but he wants more, namely, to be a CIA agent. Aside from his day job, he takes on minor operative work, but it isn’t until he gets his first high-level assignment that he really gets a taste of the action.
Reese teams up with Charlie Wax, a special agent with a tendency to utilize unconventional and eccentric methods. In an effort to stop a terrorist attack, Wax hurls Reese into the line of fire with a vase full of cocaine as his only shield. As the duo delves deeper into their mission, Reese discovers he’s got far more at stake than he initially thought.
From Paris with Love is intense in every sense of the word. From Reese’s minimal license plate-swap jobs to his explosive antics with Wax, the suspense level is high throughout the film. There’s blood, bullets and bombs galore all topped off with powerful car chase sequences.
Sounds like a typical action thriller, right? Yes, but not entirely. The barrage of firepower is gripping, but it’s impossible to overlook the film’s real stars, Reese and Wax. Reese is a methodical and respectable guy who’s just trying to do the best he can. Wax, on the other hand, is downright insane. His sole concern is that the job gets done and he won’t hesitate to put a bullet through the brain of anyone who gets in his way. The contradictory personas play off each other perfectly allowing From Paris with Love to deliver the suspense while still maintaining a sense of authenticity.
Of course there’s nothing realistic about a guy who’s seemingly indestructible and his sidekick who doesn’t have the nerve to pull a trigger yet still manages to survive, but the film is too much fun to care. A large part of that enjoyment comes from Travolta’ performance as Wax. Anyone can wield a gun and do some stunts, but only an actor like Travolta could provide this wacky superspy with such a unique aura. Everything from his shiny bald head down to his confident strut is intriguing. It’s a relief that the story focuses on Wax as a professional rather than trying to force some emotional backstory to justify his no-fear behavior. But that’s where Meyers’ character comes in.
Wax’s wild shootouts leave From Paris with Love teetering the line of absurdity, but Reese keeps it from falling over the edge. He’s good and happy with his job working for the Ambassador, but craves a little action. When he asks his secretive CIA insider for more responsibility, he has no idea what he’s getting himself into. He follows Wax like a puppy dog as he bulldozes everything in their way. It’s easy to relate to Reese’s eagerness to attain his dream job, yet recoil when he gets a taste of what it’s really like to be an agent. The two coalesce seamlessly giving the film’s heroes a sense of imperishable loftiness and humanity as well.
If you’re able to get past the unrealistic nature of the content, From Paris with Love is left with just one major fault: convoluted plot points. The most difficult to get past is the relationship between Wax’s mission and a drug ring. Fast-talking Wax mutters over the details, but doesn’t allow for enough time to digest the information and get a clear picture of what exactly is going on. Other elements that are hard to swallow revolve around Reese’s underdeveloped relationship with his girlfriend Caroline. Far too much is left to presumption.
Overall, From Paris with Love is nothing but a routine action film. But, when placed in the hands of director Pierre Morel, it becomes a visual spectacle and compelling experience. Tack on Travolta’s comprehensive performance and a little authenticity from Meyers and you end up with something that makes due on its promise to blow you away, yet offers a pleasing dose of ingenuity.