The boys are back in town, only this time, the boys are John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and the town is Paris. Yes, we get to see the Eiffel Tower again, but at least this time, no one blows it up or knocks it down. In the world of thrillers, that passes for realism, and in "From Paris with Love," nothing else does. It's a "GAB" movie, the kind where you keep grinning and mumbling, "Gimme a break."
James Reece (Rhys Meyers) is the personal assistant of an ambassador in gay Paree. What he really wants is to move up the career ladder and become a field agent for the CIA. He's been tried out with small jobs, like planting listening devices in French government offices, and on the night his ooh-la-la French girlfriend Caroline (Kasis Smutniak) proposes to him, he gets a call telling him to meet a real CIA agent, Charlie Wax (Travolta), at the airport.
After hustling Wax through customs, Reece learns that his new explosive wild cannon of a partner is in town to bust a terrorist cell set on sending a suicide bomber into an international meeting and popping the American secretary of state, a bad-tempered, haughty bitch who looks something like Guess Who. As the boys follow a cocaine trail that leads them to hard-core bad guys, they discover that Reece has always been at the center of the plot, only he didn't know it.
But so much for the MacGuffin. What this picture is really about is having fun blowing stuff up, throwing villains out windows and down stairs, and crashing cars. Someone has complained that the editing of the film is so frenetic, it is used to hide the fact that Travolta is no longer young enough to perform his own stunts. I suspect there's more to it than that. Just as there was a seemingly endless run of movies in the 1960s that burlesqued the James Bond series and its more realistic brethren, I think this flick is ribbing the new Bond films and their kin. Glory be, the tongue-in-cheek spy movie is Bourne again! Even the title is a sly wink.
Directed by Pierre Morel ("Taken") and written by Adi Hasak and Luc Besson, who has either directed, written or produced just about every French thriller since "The Fifth Element" in 1998, "From Paris with Love" is about as serious as an Oscar nomination for Paris Hilton, which in this film, would just be a hotel to blow up. Travolta is having as much fun as he usually has when he's gotten to play flamboyant villains ("Face/Off," "Broken Arrow"), and Rhys Meyers loosens up when he figures out that this is anything but Real Dramatic Acting. By the time Wax and Reece become a formidable team, both actors are pretty goosey.
Obviously, this flick doesn't have much to offer beyond pleasant actors letting it all hang out, and pyrotechnics to die for. Sometimes, that's enough. "?Doug Bentin