There’s no logic, rhyme or reason to much of what happens in Pierre Morel’s From Paris with Love, his kinetic shoot ’em up actioner released almost exactly one year after his nearly $150 million 2009 hit Taken. And as much as I enjoyed Taken for its absurd-yet-entertaining action, From Paris with Love is an even more enjoyable film thanks primarily to John Travolta’s willingness to go full tilt, making up for the distraction that is Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s attempt at an American accent. Morel knows how to handle this kind of over-the-top story and the dialogue is entertaining enough it rarely allows you the opportunity to take a deeper look at what’s really going on, which is to say not all the pieces necessarily fit together.
Travolta plays Charlie Wax, an American “fixer” of sorts, sent around the world on special missions where body count isn’t necessarily a concern as much as getting the job done. Rhys Meyers plays James Reece, an intelligence operative undercover as an aide to the U.S. Ambassador in France. Occasionally called on for side jobs, Reece gets more than he’s used to when he’s asked to serve as Wax’s partner when duty assigns him to Paris. A cocaine crime lord is the immediate concern, but things change as clues are revealed and the bodies begin to stack up… and they do stack up.
Armed with guns, one-liners and little concern for personal safety, Wax’s motto is shoot first and never ask questions, which makes for a solid bit of fun, especially since Morel is more interested in keeping things moving than with literal bloodshed. From Paris with Love gets its R-rating primarily due to language and one bloody head wound you wouldn’t typically find in a PG-13 rated actioner of this sort. Taken was a rather violent film, but much of the violence happened off screen, which I guess is fine with the MPAA as they must assume people’s imaginations just aren’t that clever (yeah, right!). Paris gives you bullet-riddled bodies, but isn’t interested in an all out slaughter, and this is a definite bonus because there is much more fun to be had with action films than simply watching CG blood fly.
Producer and co-writer of Taken, Luc Besson, came up with the story which was scripted by Adi Hasak whose last credited work was 1997’s Shadow Conspiracy, but Besson’s fingers are all over this. Known for producing such films as Transporter and District 13 (also directed by Morel) and directing The Fifth Element and Leon, you should know what you’re walking into with this one. There isn’t so much an attention to making sure things make sense, as much as making sure things remain entertaining. For example, if The Hurt Locker taught us anything, explosive belts aren’t easy to disarm, had they been as easy to disarm as they are in From Paris with Love I’m not sure Hurt Locker would be up for Oscar’s Best Picture.
From Paris with Love isn’t a great film, but it’s certainly a fun one. Ignore the forced delivery of Rhys Meyers’s American accent, ignore his nonsensical final speech on love and just bask in the chaos Travolta brings and somehow gets away with and you will be hard-pressed to not walk out of From Paris with Love smiling.