If you were heading into an extremely dangerous place and you could take just one guy with you for your personal protection, who would it be? (If I could pick anyone male or female, I’d choose Beatrix Kiddo from the “Kill Bill” saga, but for the sake of argument, let’s limit it to a male.)
Well, one of the first guys that comes to mind is Jack Bauer from “24,” but let’s not forget Martin Riggs from the “Lethal Weapon” movies, or John McClaine of “Die Hard” fame. And if we go back even farther, we have “Dirty” Harry Callahan. I’d feel safe with any of these dudes, but after seeing John Travolta as Charlie Wax in “From Paris With Love,” I think I’d have to say that Charlie is my man. This guy is one BAD ASS! And “From Paris With Love” is a terrific escape film filled with outstanding action, suspense, and a great twist.
When the film opens, we meet James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), an American living in Paris, where he enjoys quite a nice life. He serves as the personal aide to the U.S. Ambassador in France, and in addition to his prestigious job, he spends his free time with Caroline (Kasia Smutniak), his stunning French girlfriend. Reese also serves as an operative for the CIA, but all of his work for that organization is the kind that involves no danger.
Now you would think that the fellow would be happy, but what he really wants is be a field agent for the CIA and get in on the kind of case that makes headlines and heroes. Thus, when he gets the chance for an assignment like this, he jumps at it. And then he meets his new partner, Wax, who thrives on gun battles and fist fights, and learns that the two of them are supposed to take out a terrorist cell. Now Reese is not so sure that he wants to be in the field any longer.
With Wax and Reese as partners, we have the perfect odd couple of special agents. On the one hand, Wax is a human weapon of mass destruction whereas Reese is Mr. Goody Twoshoes, who is frightened of his own shadow. Watching these two guys work together is simply a lot of fun. Under the direction of Pierre Morel, the film achieves a wonderful blend of comedy and action, and in the film’s production notes, Morel explained what the movie is trying to achieve.
“This project is more about the relationship between the two guys who aren’t supposed to work well with each other, but they have to, and that’s what makes it fun. It starts out like a funny buddy movie and evolves, slowly but surely, into a darker plot, all the way to the final twist.”
Both Travolta and Rhys Meyers are perfectly cast in their respective roles, and they complement each other beautifully. With his shaved head and his brash I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude, Wax is the very antithesis of the quiet, reserved, and somewhat diffident Reese. In the production notes, both provided some interesting insight to their characters.
“Charlie Wax is one of those guys who, because he’s so good at what he does, can afford to be a little unethical,” Travolta said. “He’s the kind of guy that would be hired, for a lot of money, to go into very dangerous situations, war zones and so on, to do espionage type of work, undercover type of work, and he’s got it nailed. He’s not afraid of death. He has the war mentality.”
“Even though he’s a very grown-up guy and a very responsible guy, Reese has this idea of what being a spy is all about, and it’s mainly stuff out of comic books. That element makes him like a child in a sense,” Meyers said. “But then slowly he starts to realize that it’s not all James Bond cars and nice suits and covert operations. It’s very dirty and bloody and messy and disgusting – the real world. He’s sort of living out his fantasy and the fantasy turns into a nightmare in front of him.”
If you are a Travolta fan, you should absolutely love him in this part. From the first time we see Wax until the final scene, he is cocky, profane, reckless, tough, and constantly entertaining. And as you watch him in this film, it’s easy to see that Travolta absolutely revels in the role. He looks as if he is having a blast in every scene.
If you’re looking for humor, action, mystery, action, suspense, and more action, “From Paris With Love” (Score it an 8.) definitely delivers the goods. Also, it’s a real hoot watching Travolta’s character beat the bad guys to a complete pulp. And that’s not fiction!