John Travolta is back in wacky-insane-guy mode, acting for the cool movie in his head rather than the crap that's on the screen. After his outlandish bad-guy performance in last summer's The Taking of Pelham 123, Travolta has switched sides but sharpened his incisors for a little more celluloid chewing. Unfortunately, he doesn't have Brian Helgeland writing his amped-up crazy talk this time; instead, it's Adi Hasak, who's fed every stupid action cliché you've ever seen into a blender and hit puree. How Travolta and bland co-star Jonathan Rhys-Meyers keep a straight face while snarling Hasak's empty-headed dialogue is beyond me.
The plot is a brainless American buddy flick where uptight and upright newbie agent Meyers partners with the outrageously vulgar Travolta to take down drug dealers and terrorists in gay Paree. Unfortunately, what starts as a barely serviceable excuse for shoot 'em ups turns laughably serious with its "politically aware" third-act twist. And unlike the recent District 13: Ultimatum, where producer Luc Besson injected a multi-cultural cadre of anti-heroes and heart-stopping stunts, we see an endless succession of featureless Asians and Arabs used as target practice for blustering American spies. It's the kind of xenophobic nonsense that makes Fox News and Armond White fans cheer.
More inexcusably, From Paris With Love has but two scenes worth mentioning: a short confrontation between Travolta and a gang of street punks, and a bit where bodies comically tumble down a spiral staircase. The rest is a cavalcade of barely coherent shootouts capped with a recycled car chase. The funny thing is, you'd be hard-pressed to verify that Travolta actually appears in any of the action sequences, since they're poorly shot and edited to within an inch of their life. One could easily imagine the filmmakers digitally grafting Travolta's mug onto a stuntman while he took the day off to sip espresso.
And even the film's Euro-setting gets a big fat fail, with nothing but the presence of Peugeots and French-speaking extras to suggest we're in "The City of Lights."
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com.