There’s something about a Luc Besson action flick I find virtually irresistible. The Transporter. La Femme Nikita. Colombiana. Whether he’s writing, directing or producing, his films have a distinctive tone and style, my person favourite being Léon: The Professional.
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The original cut of the Jean Reno classic was released in North America as The Professional. An extended cut called Léon: The Professional that explores the relationship between Jean Reno and Natalie Portman was released later. I prefer the latter to the former.
And then there’s From Paris with Love.
The essential core of the plot is James Reese, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, is a personal aide to the U.S. Ambassador in France and a low-level CIA operative. He’s asked to team up with visiting special agent Charlie Wax as part of his bid for a promotion. The two end up on a violence-filled mission through the City of Lights, trying to stop drug dealers and terrorists.
The plot is unabashedly derivative, convoluted and disjointed. It is, at best, quite difficult to follow at times and virtually impossible to believe at others. The biggest issue for me is how unclear Wax’s mission is and how Reese truly fits in to it as they almost indiscriminately jump from one action scene to another. It’s like the movie is trying to be a smart mystery thriller but just keeps throwing plot twists on the pile instead of developing a focused story. But there is one saving grace to this film…
John Travolta as Charlie Wax.
Wax is the polar opposite to the James Bond style of agent. He isn’t a smooth talker and is more likely to pull out a rocket launcher to get out of a dicey situation. He talks a good game but backs it up with brutal action to drive his point home. And Travolta brings his absolutely best quirky performance to the character, making Wax engaging and enjoyable to watch.
From Paris with Love is an odd duck of a film. It isn’t the best example of Luc Besson’s work. I would certainly look towards Léon: The Professional for that. But you stick with this film because of Wax. His character is just intriguing enough to make you push through the plot to find out what he’s going to do next and how he’s going to solve this case, such as it is.
Ian Goodwillie is a columnist for the Spectator Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at@ThePrairieGeek and on Tumblr at iangoodwillie.tumblr.com.
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