'From Paris with Love'
Rated R for bloody violence throughout, drug content, pervasive language and brief sexuality. Running time: 95 minutes. One star out of four.
In the space of just a few weeks, we have movies starring Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson and John Travolta. It's like the early '90s all over again.
Nostalgia is on Travolta's mind, too. In "From Paris with Love," he plays a violent but chatty CIA agent who, while bullets fly, likes to engage in dialogue that recalls "Pulp Fiction" as if written by action film hacks.
It's a kind of return to Paris for Travolta, who memorably gave his travelogue of the French capital in "Pulp Fiction." "From Paris with Love" references that, too, with a wink-wink meal of a Royale with cheese.
The Tarantino comparison (not to mention the title's James Bond allusion) only serves to make "From Paris with Love" appear all the more slight.
The film is directed by Pierre Morel, who helmed another spy thriller, the surprising 2008 hit "Taken." Both were written (this one by Robert Mark Kamen) from a story idea by the French action filmmaker Luc Besson.
Like that film, which starred Liam Neeson, "Paris" turns drama stars into stealth, deadly spies. Alongside Travolta (Charlie Wax), Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays James Reese, an aide to the U.S. ambassador of France (Richard Durden).
But Reese is also a low-level secret agent for the CIA. He aspires to higher levels of intrigue and gets his shot when he's teamed with the veteran Wax. The two embark on a manic rampage of destruction, racking up double-digit bodies within minutes, in a desperate race to prevent terrorists from blowing up ungrateful politicians.
The not-so-subtle suggestion is that those who underestimate the terrorist threat or worry too much about protocol risk big trouble.
The ceiling for a movie like this is, at best, Guy Ritchie or John Woo territory — which is to say, quite low indeed. But the biggest thing standing in the way of "From Paris with Love" achieving even that standard is the laughable casting.
The Irish actor Rhys Meyers ("The Tudors," "Match Point") likely has some fans somewhere, but his pasty, hollow-cheeked look has always seemed more model than actor. But even his defenders would acknowledge he's not quite action movie material.
That needn't be an impediment; the fish-out-water is a standby of many a thriller. But in "From Paris With Love," his character, though inexperienced, quickly adapts to the carnage. (He does blink for one pseudo-poetic moment of reflection in front of a mirror.)
Reese, it turns out, is a tough, too. Contrary to his manicured appearance, he boasts that he's from a hard New York neighborhood. One foresees South Bronx crowds cackling in the theaters.
Having more fun is Travolta. With a shaved head, a thick goatee, an earring and a leather coat with an upturned collar draped by a scarf, he resembles a biker from Soho.
He throws himself fully into the film, but it never feels like anything more than action movie dress-up.
Rated R for some disturbing images and language. 93 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
This thinnest of horror tales asks the question, what would you do if you were stranded on a ski lift, forgotten and left to freeze after the resort staff goes home?
It's an utter bore watching as writer-director Adam Green struggles and fails to keep his one-note idea interesting for the length of a feature film.
There's maybe enough material here for a short film, so Green pads things with a lot of dreary scenes of chattering teeth and chattering characters as Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore and Kevin Zegers share thoughts of their plight and the odd childhood anecdote as frostbite sets in.
Since three people shivering on a ski lift would be about as action-packed as "Waiting for Godot," Green also adds wolves — you know, the sort of ravenous wolves that hang out at all the finer New England ski resorts waiting for dalliers on the slopes that they can hunt down and devour.
Need we say more?