I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said From Russia with Love while talking about this movie. I’m given strange looks immediately by those around me as they try desperately to remember John Travolta in a James Bond movie. It’s at this point I correct myself and then all is made right temporarily until they admit to never hearing of From Paris with Love. Not a huge surprise considering was out of theaters barely a month after its initial release. Add to the fact the film made a paltry $24 million domestically (and less than its total budget with worldwide ticket sales taken into account) and it’s no surprise that the film went relatively unknown. Of course looking at critical reviews would have definitely turned quite a few off as well, since the 37% it currently holds on Rotten Tomatoes is less than appealing.
Trigger-happy special agent Charlie Wax (Travolta) leads rookie James Reese (Rhys Meyers) on a high-speed shooting frenzy through the Parisian underworld during a high-stakes CIA mission to foil a terrorist attack planned on the city. Before Reese realizes he’s bitten off more than he can chew, the duo discovers that he’s a target of the same crime ring planning the attack. With only 48 hours to save the city, there is no turning back and only one deadly way out. Pack your bags and get ready for a serious adrenaline-rush of adventure!
This is a strange film as it starts out fairly docile at first, with a heavy focus on Rhys Meyers character. In fact it’s within these opening moments that I thought it could actually be a pretty solid flick, since it was doing a solid job of building up its characters and crafting a little conspiracy theory type story. Then Travolta’s character came into play and the true intentions of the film became evident: nonsensical violence that offered Travolta the opportunity to act like a nutter. It actually seemed kind of like he was channeling Nicholas Cage with the insanity in this film, which is a possibility considering they reversed roles in Face/Off. Whatever the reason for his portrayal, it will either make or break the film the for you as from the moment he appears on screen the tone of the film changed from a slightly aloof action film to an off-the-wall outing that makes little sense in the end since it’s just gunplay and explosions from then on out.
I guess the “twist” in the film was a bit unforeseen and the rapid nature in which the plot movies along keeps it a fairly brisk viewing experience, but no amount of spontaneous bullets-to-the-head in the middle of a perfectly fine dinner conversation can redeem a movie like this for more than a few seconds. It’s kind of a shame because the film had potential, but the ultimate execution of it seemed like something akin to a pilot for a TV show rather than a standalone movie. Despite all the characters being new to each other (for the most part), they acted as if they were old friends or knew each other previously in a short amount of time. Reese and Wax’s relationship quickly went from reluctant to best buddies, partly due to the likeability of Wax’s character and also due to the wonky writing in the film.
I will say the action scenes were at least very entertaining, if a bit superfluous at times. The restaurant shoot out seemed entirely unprovoked and even when Wax gave his reasoning behind doing something, you couldn’t help but feel that it was a massive stretch that he was able to put two and two together as fast as he did. Granted he was supposed to be a super-spy/action dude and all that, but there’s a threshold of believability and this film just seemed to transcend it. It’d be like watching what Jack Bauer did in the later seasons of 24 in the first season—it just wouldn’t work because you don’t believe the character can be that awesome. Same goes for Travolta’s character here—he’s an incredible bad ass, but of unbelievable proportions because there’s no build up. Plus that whole “Wax on, Wax off” line still makes no sense.
The remainder of the film feels like something out of the Human Target TV series, which, while entertaining in its own right, is still pretty hokey. And going for an hour and a half of that with a theatrical production gets to be a bit much. Worth a Rental for action junkies, but otherwise it’s something you can probably avoid safely.
Lionsgate pushes out From Paris with Love on Blu-ray in a standard two-disc Elite Blu-ray case. Included is a cardboard slipcover, but it’s identical to the art below it so nothing much there to remark about; inside the case is the usual with one disc for the movie and another for the digital copy. Menus are easy enough to navigate, although a tad bit crowded, since Lionsgate has an affinity for fancy menus on their Blu’s it seems.
Video is an AVC encoded 1080p affair and…oddly enough it’s kind of disappointing. Mainly because the film itself is so dark (we only get a few daytime sequences to show off the capabilities of the transfer), but the ~30mbps bitrate that the film boasts really seems wasted. There’s just not a whole lot of detail to soak in and what of it there is quickly fades away. It’s not an unpleasant transfer by any means, but it just really doesn’t “wow” me in the way most Lionsgate transfers do.
Audio is a DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix and, thankfully, this is where the movie redeemed itself for me. It’s an incredibly violent and meaty sounding mix, with deafening bullet shots and plenty of subwoofer action to back every dropped shell. It’s a pretty relentless mix and for that reason alone I think I enjoyed watching the film more than I probably should have. Granted there were some soft dialogue issues that cropped up, but nothing major enough to dock any serious points—though that first half of the film that I enjoyed so much was deafeningly quiet at times, I will admit. Sadly the audio got better when the film itself began to get worse, but whatever. Mindless violence is fun.
• Picture-in-picture commentary with Director Pierre Morel
• “The Making of From Paris With Love” featurette
• “Spies, Spooks and Special Ops: Life Under Cover” featurette
• “Secrets of Spy Craft: Inside the International Spy Museum” featurette
• “Charlie Wax’s Gun Locker” featurette
• Friend or Foe Trivia Game
• Lionsgate Live ™* (requires profile 2.0 player) – BD Live Menu System that lets you access Exclusive
Content, Special Offers, Ringtones and More!
• Theatrical trailer
PiP commentary tracks seem to be becoming more prevalent for whatever reason, but I think they’re a nice bonus to the usual mundane audio-only tracks we’re so used to. Morel is pretty engaging here, but it’s kind of a one-sided view of the film considering Morel wasn’t involved with the writing of it so he’s kind of limited in what he can talk about when it comes to the story. Not a huge deal, I doubt anyone really cares about the story anyway. Blow stuff up!
The remaining extras, all in 1080p, comprise about fifty minutes of featurettes and whatnot and are worth looking at if you enjoyed the film or were curious how some things were done in the film. The Lionsgate Live bits are the aforementioned clutter filled menu items, but it’s a nice bit of bonuses for those wanting new ringtones and whatnot.
Overall a solid release that’s worth a Rental just for the audio, but if you don’t have a setup to appreciate it then you can skip over this one.
From Paris with Love is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.