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James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) lives the high life in Paris as the US Ambassador’s personal aid. What his boss and girlfriend don’t know is that he works a second job as a low-level CIA operative, where he changes out license plates and places bugs in government offices. But James longs for something a little more action-packed, and his wish comes true when he’s ordered to assist agent Charlie Wax (John Travolta). Wax’s unorthodox methods and violent behaviour catch the uninitiated James off guard, but he soon learns he may have something to learn from the senior operative. Violence eventually ensues.

From Paris with Love
Judging by the box office take and critical reception of From Paris with Love, I’m not the only one sick of the Luc Besson movie machine. The one time director turned mega producer’s production filmography has created a swath of mediocrity not seen since the heyday of the direct to VHS ninja movie. There are a few films as good as Unleashed, or as financially successful as Taken in the collection, but for the most part these films are interchangeable mixes of action clichés, with minor, brief highlights. Director Pierre Morel is one of an ever increasing list of interchangeable talents Besson hires as a generic cipher. District 13 and Taken do stand slightly above most of the other recent Besson productions, but I still wouldn’t call either particularly interesting outside a few sequences or performances. From Paris with Love sets itself apart from Morel’s other films neglecting to do anything interesting for twenty minutes. We’re not just talking dumb, or silly, we’re talking utter bore. Finally something happens that can be categorically considered action, and it’s enough to keep the most desperate among us from turning the film off, but it isn’t until a solid hour into this mess that Morel attempts anything close to his work of District 13. The closest he gets is a half-decent car chase Louis Leterrier could’ve made between naps. And I’m not even a Leterrier fan.

The lack of action wouldn’t be a huge problem had the screenplay been worth a ninety-three minute sitting. Unfortunately, this is possibly the worst screenplay to come out of the Besson factory since the Taxi remake. Seriously, I would not be at all surprised if the original plot was scribbled on a cocktail napkin. None of these films are interesting in a story sense, but the decent ones at least have a hook—an illegal transporter finds himself with human cargo, an ex-CIA op’s daughter is kidnapped, or guys that can jump really well have to stop a nuclear bomb. From Paris with Love features no such hook, unless you consider the ‘guess it the first time you meet the character’ last act twist, which seems to be the only definable story element in the entire script. Worse yet, there’s no Liam Neeson or Jason Statham to overcome the character clichés. Travolta does an utterly terrible impression of his best work (and looks like he just came off the set of Pelham 123), and Rhys Myers plays a total dead fish of a straight man who is maddeningly  bad at his job. James could be set up as new and inexperienced, but the screenwriters opt for total ineptitude. The only thing more maddening is idiotic Americana by way of Popeye Boyle dope Travolta plays, whose dialogue is the worst blend of painful exposition, heavy handed stuff that should probably go unspoken, and Tarantinoesque mouthfuls of ‘bad ass’ (including some direct and clumsy Pulp Fiction references). Not one member of the cast has it in them to work through the trash.

From Paris with Love

Video


From Paris with Love follows the lead set by cinematographer turned director Pierre Morel’s other films. The print is dark with neon and acrylic highlights, and plenty of grain. Details are tight and consistent throughout most of the film, including dark lighting schemes, and crowded wide shots, but never as utterly sharp as a lot of the bigger budget action stuff coming out of Lionsgate recently. The cleanliness of the busy wide shots, filled with colourful set dressing and props, is probably the transfer’s most successful element, and general details are good enough to make Travolta’s stunt double stick out any time he’s utilized. The colours are well represented, bright, and well separated, despite all the grain, and there is a lot of grain. The element that suffers the greatest shortcoming is the black levels, which often either absorb the colour elements, or appear generally too gray.

From Paris with Love

Audio


This DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is effective enough, but nothing particularly note worthy. Despite being an action flick From Paris with Love is mixed more like a comedy or drama, with most of its major noise pretty well centred on the track. I’m most disappointed by the thin quality of the aural elements that usually define a silly action movie, like gunshot, bombs exploding, and revving car engines. The music and dialogue takes sizable precedence over everything fun, and directional elements are few and far between. The LFE is certainly punchy, and this saves the action from being entirely lost amongst David Buckley’s less than thrilling musical score. The music is certainly well represented in the front channels, but isn’t mixed into the rear channels outside of some basic echo effects.

From Paris with Love

Extras


The extras start with a BonusView commentary from director Pierre Morel. Morel is pleasant enough, but he reacts to the on screen images, and basically narrates the film. He remembers to include a few anecdotes, but isn’t particularly informative in terms of technical filmmaking (though he gets more into the swing as the track progresses). The time is filled without very many blank spots (at least not for the first hour), and I appreciate that Morel doesn’t seem to think he’s made a great film, but it’s very hard to maintain interest. In losing interest I started skipping chapters, and in the process I apparently missed all the PiP moments, that, or there actually isn’t any video on the disc to go with the commentary. Either way I can’t imagine anyone really caring. There’s also a ‘Friend or Foe Trivia Game’ mode for more in-movie entertainment, which quizzes the viewer via timed pop-up multiple choice questions.

‘From Paris with Love: Making of’ (26:40, HD) is more artfully put together EPK than expected, made up of cast and crew interviews set to a whole lot of footage from the film, and behind the scenes video, that doesn’t really tell us much. It’s pretty sad how diluted the interview subjects are considering how super awful the film is. I genuinely feel sorry for them. ‘Spies, Spooks and Special Ops: Life Under Cover’ (16:00, HD) threatens to be an informative look at the real life spy craft behind the film’s daft storyline, but mostly tells us what we already know from watching better movies, and pertains almost exclusively to what happens over the course of the film. ‘Secrets of Spy Craft’ (04:30, HD) is an unabashed advertisement for Washington DC’s International Spy Museum, which looks like a fun enough place to visit some day. The extras are completed with ‘Charlie Wax’s Gun Locker’, an interactive look at the weapons used by the character over the course of the film, a trailer, and trailers for upcoming Lionsgate releases.

From Paris with Love

Overall


From Paris with Love is a shockingly bad film, directed by a bored man that needs to move on from under his mentors wing, and featuring one of worst scripts to come out of the Luc Besson factory in a long time. I’m sure someone out there enjoyed it, but I can’t imagine why. The Blu-ray image and audio quality is quite average, and the extras deliver less than the box art appears to promise, but there’s nothing worth aggressively complaining about.

*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.


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