From Paris With Love (15) **
Director: Pierre Morel
Starring: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak
The producer-director partnership of Luc Besson and Pierre Morel enjoyed staggering success with 2008’s dumb-as-nuts revenge thriller Taken; this follow-up proves no more enlightened, but it’s shorter and - most often unintentionally - funnier, which may yet redeem it in the eyes of the less discerning. Bespectacled, square-jawed U.S. ambassador’s aide James Reece (Rhys Meyers) has been running covert national security ops in Paris without much reward. He’s aghast on learning his new partner is to be bald-pated, earringed, leather-jacketed counter-terrorism agent Charlie Wax (Travolta), who - guess what? - refuses to play by the rules.
As the above suggests, what we get is lukewarm (or Luc-warm) Tarantino with a touch of the 24s, shamelessly pandering to American audiences even as it preys on their worst fears that every burqa in sight conceals nefarious activity of a sort. Enthusiasm for Besson’s attempt to revive the buddy-movie dynamic slips away when faced with such hoary action clichés as the shootout in a room of mannequins, or the absurd development that turns Reece’s model fiancée into history’s most glamorous suicide bomber. Frequent explosions will keep militiamen everywhere yee-hawing for the duration, but it’s as authentically French as Travolta’s beloved Royales with cheese.