Monday, February 15, 2010
"From Paris with Love": Johnathan Rhys-Meyers takes the show (from skinhead Travolta) as the geek turned physical
The taut “French” thriller “From Paris with Love”, (from Lionsgate, Digital Factory, Europafilm, and Canal, directed by Pierre Morel, story by Luc Besson) seems at first like a stereotyped chase thriller, European style – but it really does make us bond with the geeky James Reece, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers finally in a really likeable role. His 33 year old face looks more weathered than it should, perhaps, but his lanky presence dominates the film and rather upstages be skinhead version of John Travolta as Charlie Wax (whose motto is “wax in, wax out”, as if a male beauty salon were around the Parisian corner, but here it’s not). (Remember what happened to Travolta's bod in the 1983 dance film "Staying Alive"?)
In the opening scene, Reece, apparently a CIA analyst/operative, wins a chess game with one of his peers, when he gets a call to go get his next partner (Wax) through customs. Apparently Reece was hired because of his fluency in multiple languages. He hasn’t been trained for black ops, so he will be tested. But there’s a reason he was chosen, his girl friend and fiancee Caroline (Kasia Smutniak). Except for the overt heterosexuality of an early scene, Reece sort of acts gay, as if you expect to see him dirty dancing on a disco floor Saturday night somewhere. I even wondered how the story would work if his lover was male. But then, there is that plot twist, which is not too hard to guess.
Reece and Wax go from chasing oriental cocaine dealers to uncovering a jihadist plot (there is a sign “Peshawar” on the Paris streets, naming a city in the Pakistani tribal area) literally buried in the coke powder, and pretty soon the idea that females have been joining jihad becomes important. Reece is faced with moral choices about his own inner nature, like whether he can pull a trigger if he has to.
There are lots of shootouts, and a great car chase on the freeways east of Paris, which I remember from my own rent car experience in 1999. The French drive much too fast.
I wondered if the intelligence services really can turn a “geek” around and make him a physically effective operative. I also wondered how Blake Berris (the unfortunately jailed geek Nick Fallon in “Days of our Lives”) would have fit into the role of Reece.
The film should not be confused with “To Paris with Love”, a small 1955 comedy with Alec Guiness.
Wikipedia attribution link for Defense center in Paris
Lionsgate’s site is here.
YouTube from Feature Movie Trailers:
The morning crowd at a President’s Day show at Tyson’s Corner AMC was moderate (on a day when snow was expected).