You know things have gone from bad to worse when John Travolta starts riffing himself, evoking the far better bang-bang days when he was working with Quentin Tarantino and John Woo.
James Reece/Richard Stevens (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a double agent in Paris, toiling as an adroit, multi-lingual, chess-playing attaché to the American Ambassador (Richard Durden) and as a low-level undercover CIA errand-boy who swaps license plates on cars in dark parking garages. Plus, he’s got a gorgeous French/Muslim fiancée, Caroline (Kasia Smutniak). Problem is: when he gets a really challenging assignment, he’s teamed with a foul-mouthed operative, Special Agent Charlie Wax (Travolta), a free-wheeling former mercenary, whose trigger-happy, bad-boy antics could well blow their cover as they’re trying to take down Chinese coke dealers and capture a suicide bomber tied up with a Pakistani terrorist ring. Uzi-toting, leather-clad Wax is introduced as he tries to sneak a precious suitcase full of energy drinks (whose contents hold firearms) through customs – before strapping on automatic weapons, loading a rocket launcher and embarking on exploding SUVs around the City of Light, exclaiming, “Welcome to Paris, baby!” And that’s when he’s not gobbling Cheese Royales and tearing-up when he hears “(They Long to Be) Close to You” on the car radio.
Directed as a kinetic, buddy/action adventure by Pierre Morel, who guided Liam Neeson through the far more intelligent kidnapping drama “Taken” a year ago, it’s a nonsensical shambles, pieced together by screenwriter Adi Hasak from a story by Luc Besson. The quirky humor is supposed to derive from the odd-couple mis-matching of the gun-slinging partners, and the stylish camerawork features a CGI-enhanced shoot-out at the Eiffel Tower.
While British Jonathan Rhys-Meyers does a creditable American accent and is convincingly bland and oafish, toting a cocaine-filled vase, John Travolta goes over the top – and then some – with bald head, goatee and dangling earring. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “From Paris With Love” is a bullet-riddled, forgettable 4, filled with bloody violence and an astonishingly high corpse count.