Little “Love” for Travolta’s latest

“From Paris With Love” certainly wasn’t my cup of tea, but I wouldn’t stop people from seeing it, provided they’d be interested by an old–school invincible American superhero spy who dodges bullets and dishes out clever one–liners.

In the theatre I felt transported back to the nineties, when all you needed to take down a major terrorist organization in a movie was a few never–ending clips in your gun, a couple of giant explosions, and one or two incredulous looks from your partner as he or she stands by and does nothing.

Cap it off with a clever line about how the baddie should’ve switched to decaf after you smash him in the face with a coffee pot and you’ve got a great action movie.

This is no longer the case in the action genre however. In a post–Bourne world, audiences expect hyperrealism and for the bad guys to not shoot everything in the room but the hero.

Photo from

The days of Arnold Schwarzenegger on horseback battling stereotypical jihadists are gone.  If you don’t believe me just look at the Bond franchise: The days of Pierce Brosnan and his snappy remarks, for better or worse, are gone.

The action genre now relies mostly on the work of Jason Statham in the “Crank” and “Transporter” franchises, but they are hardly the cream of the yearly film crop.

Which brings us back to “From Paris With Love.” John Travolta plays Charlie Wax, (yes, apparently that is his real name; I couldn’t believe it either) a super spy called in to take down a suspected Pakistani terrorist cell. He is teamed up with American diplomat and super-spy hopeful James Reece, played by an oddly–accented Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

It’s pretty formulaic from there.  Charlie Wax shoots a few people here, beats a few people up there, collects a little intelligence and then eats a cheeseburger, informing us that in Paris they call it “a Royale with cheese.”

Hey screenwriter, it’s probably not a good idea to remind us how cool Travolta actually was in “Pulp Fiction” when he is now fifteen years older and using dome wax.

It’s got all the quintessential classic action movie standards: a shootout in a restaurant, a freeway chase where a really slow Volvo speeds away from a brand new Audi, silencers, bazookas, car bombs, sharks with laser beams attached to their friggin’ heads. Okay maybe that last one is a quote from “Austin Powers,” but you get the idea.

The film doesn’t have a lot going for it.  The plot isn’t particularly original or interesting. The characters aren’t what I would call multi-dimensional. The script isn’t especially well written. It’s a little thin in the moments where things are being shot or blown up.

It simply comes down to whether or not you are feeling a little nostalgic. Will Smith once described “Men in Black 2” as a movie where you got your money’s worth in entertainment and you left the theatre promptly after ninety minutes. That was a bad movie, but he makes a good point. It all comes down to why you go to the theatre. If you go to be entertained, maybe laugh a couple times, and don’t want to think too hard, by all means go enjoy “From Paris with Love.”

If you are into the intelligent, slightly more believable action film where the laws of physics are obeyed and the star is not superhuman — you might want to skip this one.