In January of 2009, the low-budgeted action-thriller taken opened to nearly $25 million on its way to $150 million, immediately turning director Pierre Morel into a hot commodity. A year later, he returned with From Paris with Love, an over-the-top, high octane action movie that proves concept is just as important as talent.
The reason Taken did so well was not because of its director or even its talent (though Liam Neeson's presence didn't hurt); it succeeded because it marketed a cool, straightforward action movie that delivered on its promise. From Paris with Love also delivers on its promise, but its promise was never very good to begin with.
The movie stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as a low-level CIA operative who is assigned to tag along with veteran John Travolta, who plays an incredibly smart but off-his-rocker agent that prefers to break rather than simply bend the rules to complete his mission. The mission itself is inconsequential as Rhys Meyers' character spends much of the movie attempting to keep up with Travolta's antics.
From Paris with Love is mildly entertaining and fast-paced; just as with Taken, there isn't a lot of filler to slow things down. The movie is perfectly watchable; unfortunately, it's also easily avoidable.
The action is generally well-filmed, but unremarkable. Even though it's fast-paced, Morel struggles to maintain suspense. Beyond the silly, nonsensical story, the action comes in sputtering bursts, never building to its climax. Then again, the climax is downright dreadful.
Unfortunately, the bigger problem is that Morel and screenwriter Adi Hasak place all their chips in the characters, Rhys Meyers and Travolta - three elements that are busts. Rhys Meyers defines bland throughout, a protagonist who does little to propel the story from one phase to the next. Travolta, typically entertaining when allowed to ham it up, is simply a caricature. He pulls off a few good one-liners, but for the most part his crazy routine just doesn't cut it.
Without the character element, the huge deficiencies in the story are hard to overcome. Hasak foreshadows complexities throughout, but the end result is very basic and dissatisfying. The plot is routine and the "twist" pretty farfetched.
Despite its flaws, From Paris with Love does have its moments. But the story, characters and especially the climax are so bland - which is odd considering the movie's premise is intended to be a bit goofy - it's hard to make an argument as to why you should watch it.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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