In the latest tightly wound actioner from Taken’s Pierre Morel, John Travolta is renegade Royale-with-Cheese-loving FBI agent Charlie Wax, dispatching bad guys and macking on the ladies with overemphatic bluster. It’s entertaining and embarrassing all at once. Even bald, glowering and goateed, Travolta can’t mask his sensitive side, so he’s never entirely convincing as a stone-cold assassin. But he’s still pretty hilarious when placed alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers as sexy-nerdy James Reece, a hyper-organised employee at the US embassy in Paris who becomes Wax’s tagalong protégé. They’re initially tasked with taking down an Asian drug ring, but the mission keeps growing in scope.

Morel, working from a story by the film’s producer, Luc Besson, treats the proceedings like a bullet-riddled Looney Tunes adventure. The fate of a faux Ming vase filled with cocaine makes for a brilliantly delayed punchline. And during one ultra-violent shootout, bodies drop down a stairwell like Acme anvils.

Yet there’s also an uneasy seriousness to the carnage, typified by an extended image of Reece frantically wiping an antagonist’s blood off his face. It’s one confused moment of many, an aside captured with a conviction that eschews have-it-both-ways cynicism. The climax, too, where Reece squares off with a female suicide bomber, successfully melds the film’s sanguine and sincere impulses. It’s here that Besson’s influence is most deeply felt: only in the world of this Gallic populist could a well-placed bullet come off as a romantic gesture.

From Paris With Love

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Duration: 92 mintues
Released: Feb 18th
Director: Pierre Morel
Stars: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak, Amber Rose Revah, Melissa Mars, Richard Durden, Farid Elouardi
Language: English
Classification: 18+
From Paris With Love
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