Monday, June 11, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: From Paris with Love

2010, Pierre Morel (Banlieue 13, Taken) -- download

I admit, I never caught the James Bond reference from the title.  Oh this is a spy movie but really, it is the opposite of Bond's style.  With all intention this is American style business, with guns blazing and things exploding and collateral damage out the wazoo.  From Paris with Love is a small movie from the director of one of my favourite small movies, Taken.  But really, the only reason this is a small one is that the focus is on shooting people, not a focused plot.  Jonathan Rhys Meyers is completely out of place here as a minor CIA guy in Paris performing (badly) small spy functions but dreaming but becoming "active".  He gets that wish (insert familiar adage here) fulfilled with the arrival of John Travolta's Charlie Wax at the airport.  Wax is exactly the American spy as envisioned by all the European viewers of this movie -- loud, crude, anti-stylish and completely racist.  He also has no concern for the laws of the land he is in, not that any spy in a movie ever does, but at least Bond tried to do it subtly.  There is nothing subtle about Charlie Wax.

Meyers' Reece is dragged along behind Wax's crusade, first by shooting just about everyone in a chinese restaurant, bus boys included.  He gets to comically carry a vase full of cocaine around so Wax can get a snuff here and there.  Then they follow the drugs to Pakistani importers who... well, of course they are, using the drug running to fund terrorism.  You can tell Luc Besson, writer of the story here, sees the loud American (in general) as at least being effective if not delicate in his handling.  Wax is completely over the top but he is also very very capable at what he does. He connects dots, shoots straight and offends just about everyone.  He fires a rocket launcher on a crowded highway.  He shoots a dinner party guest. But he does save the day and get the girl, albeit not in the way we should expect.

We are not supposed to like Wax.  But I guess we are supposed to have a grudging respect for him. I cannot help but think this is all a scriptwriter way of making references to Americans, by Europeans. Wax is the worst kind of American tourist in Paris, with just about all the opinions from the stereotype, and he has a gun.  We may not like the way he does things, but he gets things done. Is this what Besson would have us believe? Are Americans actually affective in their war on terrorism?  True, the US does have less bombings and random extremist violence than Europe does these days. But at what cost?  The cost in the movie is unbelievably high and the final decision made by Reece states loudly that sometimes the worst decision is the only one.