Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars in director Amma Asante's period drama, which is based on the true story of Georgian Britain's first mixed-race aristocrat, Dido Belle.
On Film4: 23 Jan 9:00PM
John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers run around Paris dealing with bad dudes
Action no-brainer From Paris With Love is presumably titled as such to enable jock types to buy a pair of tickets for their sweethearts and make a half-hearted show of claiming "I thought it was a chick flick, you know - Paris, love...". Out the same week is hospital drama Extraordinary Measures, which offers the converse opportunity to fans of medical weepies. "Honey, it's got Indiana Jones and the guy from The Mummy in it. It's called Extraordinary Measures. What was I supposed to think?" Sadly, in From Paris With Love's case this deception simply won't wash - anyone who looks at a poster taken up largely by the gleaming airbrushed dome of John Travolta's head, looming like St Paul's in the Blitz above the turmoil below, and thinks "ah, romance..." deserves their own made up medical syndrome page on Wikipedia. Then there's that tagline: "Two Agents. One City. No Merci," which is the worst thing ever to happen to language and also a work of insane genius.
The plot concerns agents, cocaine, terrorists, drug-dealers, bombs and martial arts and is both convoluted and non-existent, sometimes simultaneously, but nobody involved is even pretending this matters. The inexplicable success that is Jonathan Rhys Meyers is just pleased to be out of those Tudor tights and into a skeevy pencil moustache. John Travolta, it is becoming increasingly clear, is the man you call when Dennis Hopper says "no, this is too silly." Forget the Scientologists - if there's any kind of secretive cabal trying to control Hollywood, it's a Masonic League Of Ham, dedicated to chomping on scenery and hamming up roles to the point where audiences can smell the pork crackling and put on weight simply by watching the film. Anthony Hopkins is current president, William Shatner membership secretary, with Jack Nicholson a former member of the month whose services to the League Of Ham have been on the slide lately.
Note that it is not a criticism of Travolta to say that in Charlie Wax (superb name) he creates a character of less than total subtlety. He's one of the better things about the picture. It's really a shame that nobody else in the film is as breezily careless of how they come across. There is too much seriousness here, despite the silliness inherent to the whole project - only Travolta appears to be wholly aware of the type of film he's in, as this clip ably demonstrates. Incidentally, your reaction to this clip, and tolerance of the House of Besson (Taken, Transporter, District 13: Ultimatum), will determine whether you should spend your hard earned on this one. If you do, don't say we didn't warn you.
Not suitable for vegetarians due to ham content. To be avoided if the idea of John Travolta in b-movie largeness mode, accompanying a man carrying a vase full of cocaine around Paris, intercut with scenes of sub-Bourne shaky-cam action doesn't sit right with you.
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