Who’s In It: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak, Richard Durden
The Basics: James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a personal assistant to the U.S. ambassador in Paris who dreams of becoming a real live secret agent, so when he gets an offer from a mysterious voice on the phone to “try out” for the big leagues, he jumps at the chance. Unfortunately for him (but more unfortunately for us), he’s partnered up with Charlie Wax (John Travolta at his bald-headed and goateed silliest), the FBI’s best jive-talking, rule-breaking, criminal-killing operative. As the odd couple uncovers an unnecessarily complicated terrorist plot to blow up Paris, straight-laced Reese learns how to loosen up and Wax learns…not a whole lot, really.
What’s The Deal: You’ll be sucked into this waste of time by ads that tell you it stars John Travolta at his wackiest, comes from the mind of Luc Besson (who produced and co-scripted), and that it’s directed by the guy who made Taken. But the joke’s on you: this is subpar fare on all fronts, destined to sink into cinematic oblivion and nudge everyone involved one step closer to Hackville. The only thing flying faster and looser than Travolta’s zany one-liners and the intermittently entertaining chopsocky-shoot ‘em up action is the plot, which comes packed with bad ‘90s buddy cop movie clichés and doesn’t for a second make even a veiled attempt at making sense. I’m pretty sure Luc Besson (Leon AKA The Professional, The Fifth Element) has farted out better stories than this in his sleep. Then again, that would explain a lot about From Paris with Love.
I Secretly Hope John Travolta’s Film Career Will Tank Again, Like It Did In The ‘80s: The last time Travolta went to movie jail, he came back with a vengeance in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. If he can hit the reset button again, maybe he’ll stop hamming it up in fat suits (Hairspray), playing unconvincing tough guys (The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3), and encouraging fellow old guys like Tim Allen and Robin Williams to do those horribly unfunny middle-aged man movies (Wild Hogs, Old Dogs).
Why Watching Travolta Play “Tough” Is Funny, Then Embarrassing: Because he puts all of his manic energy into acting crazy, hip, and slightly unhinged, but never quite convinces as a lethal and cold-blooded FBI enforcer who screws prostitutes on the job and can shoot dozens of bad guys while sliding headfirst down a fireman’s pole. Also because he actually says things like “Welcome to Paris, baby” after blowing someone up, something actual real-life bad asses do not do. The film’s saddest moment comes when Travolta makes an in-character reference to his character from Pulp Fiction, which just reminds us how much cooler his Vincent Vega was than Charlie Wax and, for that matter, every character he’s played since.
Oh Yeah - Jonathan Rhys Meyers Is In This, Too: When your most interesting scene involves your character accidentally inhaling a faceful of cocaine, you’ve picked the wrong project to do between seasons of The Tudors.