From Paris With Love (2010)

(In theatres, February 2010) Action comedies are tough to screw up, but leave it to Luc Besson to do his best.  Besson’s not know for his subtlety, after all, and whenever he starts writing scripts, one can expect the worst.  At first glance, From Paris With Love seems idiot-proof: Match a young bookish secret agent (Jonathan Rhys-Meyer) with a older, wilder operative (John Travolta), add a little bit of terrorism, shoot up everything in Paris and voilà.  For a while, it even works: it doesn’t matter if the plot makes no sense from the start: This is an action comedy, and it’s not supposed to.  As Travolta grins shoots his way through restaurants without a single care for consequences, it’s almost fun.  The occasional meaningless drug interlude aside, From Paris With Love starts as a competent B-grade action buddy comedy.  Director Pierre Morel does fine with the action sequences.  The film is nothing spectacular, nothing particularly achieved, but well enough to pass the time.  But then, and it’s hard to be specific without spoilers, the film truly sours once the third act gets underway: Suddenly, a big pile of drama lands into the film, and no one seems to know what to do with it: it breaks the flow, and sends the plot in another direction.  That direction ends up more problematic than anyone could expect, as it lays bare the film’s overall misogyny and makes a repulsive mess out of the conclusion.  By the time our two protagonists are back on the airport tarmac laughing and comparing the size of their guns (this isn’t a metaphor, but it could be), it’s hard to avoid thinking that something has gone horribly wrong in the writing stages.  From Paris With Love wishes it could get away with just being a forgettable entry in the action/comedy sub-genre.  Instead, it’s saddled with elements that go out of its core mission, and a remarkably obnoxious attitude towards women.  Can someone stop Besson from writing without adult supervision ever again?

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