From Paris With Love Review

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An employee of the US ambassador to France (Rhys-Meyers) hooks up with an American spy trying to stop a terrorist attack on the city.


Don't let the title mislead you. This is not a romantic comedy in which the Eiffel Tower figures picturesquely. No, the title pays homage to James Bond for a semi-wacky, semi-serious spy wheeze in the long line of odd-coupled buddy actioners.

It’s from the production stable of Luc Besson, who came up with the story and doubtless fancies it to follow his Transporters, District 13s and Taxis as another fella-friendly franchise. Hence the directorial gig went to former Besson cinematographer-turned-director Pierre Morel, who rocked it out with District 13, made Liam Neeson an action man in Taken and knows what he’s doing very well enough to have bagged the new big-budget adaptation of Dune.

The plot is simultaneously simplistic and hard to follow, but almost incidental to the testosterone fumes. Taking down a Chinese drug ring leads to encounters with ethnically assorted crime gangs as secret agent man Wax (John Travolta) connects the dots to a Middle Eastern mastermind extremist and a suitably crazed climax. Thus we zoom through peppy, culturally-appropriate set-pieces, from shoot-’em-ups, bazookas, bombs and martial-arts tiffs, to a soupçon of free-running (although Travolta is too chunky for more than a rooftop-scampering nod to that) and an exciting spot of vehicular mayhem on the Paris Périphérique.

The character appeal is in the teaming of Travolta’s OTT, shaven-headed wild ’n’ crazy guy (whose craving for a “Royale with cheese” is one jokey reference to his CV) with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who, in a reversal from his usual flamboyant turns, is engaging as the strait-laced, methodical guy who plays chess, speaks Mandarin, canoodles with a beauteous, fashion designer Euro-fiancée (Kasia Smutniak) and somewhat naively doubles being the super-efficient personal assistant to the clueless US ambassador with a spot of espionage.

None of which has prepared him for the blood-spattering antics of his new partner-slash-maniacal mentor, although he’s a surprisingly good shot for a glorified office boy.

It’s absolute nonsense, of course, but does quite nicely as knockabout Friday night fun. We can smell a sequel if Travolta can be bothered.