After seeing the balls-to-the-wall action-packed trailer for 'From Paris with Love,' I have to admit, I wasn't really all that excited. It looked like Travolta was playing the exact same character he played in 'Swordfish' only with less hair. Although, after hearing that writer Luc Besson and director Pierre Morel were teaming up for another action picture, my attitude towards the movie shifted in the positive direction. After watching Besson and Morel's 'Taken' I had to give 'From Paris with Love' a shot. I just had to.
James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, 'The Tudors') is a low level government employee working as an aide to the U.S. Ambassador to France. Reece has dreams of becoming an operative for the CIA, who use him for mundane tasks like switching license plats on cars as spies come through the country. The CIA soon figures that Reece may be a valuable asset and assign him to become partners with Charlie Wax (John Travolta). Wax is what they like to refer to as a "loose cannon." It's getting to the point in espionage/cop movies that loose cannons are the rule instead of the exception, but no matter, Wax is funny.
Wax is in France tracking down a ring of cocaine suppliers and Reece is now his partner. What separates 'From Paris with Love' from other buddy spy movies is that Wax actually wants, and likes, having a partner. Never once does he utter the ridiculous line, "I work alone." Thank goodness! A loose cannon that actually wants someone by his side, I can get on board with that.
'From Paris with Love' is filled wall-to-wall with Besson and Morel's slick, high-octane action scenes. No matter how dangerous the situation though, Wax still finds time to crack jokes and act like the cocky John Travolta of yesteryear.
The film weaves in and out of a giant conspiracy like most of these films do. The conspiracy just helps to drive the story along, while the real entertaining part of the film is Wax and his interactions with people, especially Reece. It's good to see Travolta taking control of this part. Like Nicolas Cage, no matter how crazy the role, Travolta is able to completely embody it.
The camerawork and editing style resemble that of the majority of action movies nowadays. If I had one complaint about this otherwise lovable spy buddy movie it's that it's hard to ever tell who is fighting who. The fight scenes are a jumble of quickly cut body part close ups, which never give you a real sense of the space being taken up by the actors.
'From Paris with Love' is a fun-loving action film, and succeeds mostly on the merits of Travolta being crazy ole Travolta. When he totally immerses himself into a role, no matter how silly it is, it's always enjoyable. Too bad he does too many movies like 'Old Dogs,' and not enough movies like 'From Paris with Love.' Come for the non-stop action, stay for the wise-cracking Travolta. Now that would have been the perfect tagline for this film.
'From Paris with Love' comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p high definition presentation. Encoded with the AVC codec, 'From Paris with Love' lends itself to a proficient, but slightly underwhelming video presentation.
Fine detail never develops into a striking display of what high definition is capable of. Facial details and textures are reserved, never giving us that high-def pop. Colors are strong, but the cinematography choices from the filmmakers sink the movie into the darker side of the spectrum. Black levels are nicely rendered, providing some good depth to the image. Skintones take on a yellowish tint. I'm quite sure this is due to the type of filter being used during filming. If that's so, then the transfer does an adequate job representing what the director and cinematographer wanted. Some scenes do suffer from quite a bit of haziness, as when Wax takes out numerous bad guys in an apartment building. The haziness plays hell with fine detail. As for digital anomalies, I didn't detect any. This is just one of those transfers that does what it's supposed to do, but doesn't use the full capabilities of the format.
I'm positive this transfer is faithful to what the filmmakers wanted the film to look like, but it's nothing I would use as demo material.
Lionsgate gives us another new action release with a full-bodied, fantastic sounding, 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation.
'From Paris with Love' is full of every sound you would expect from an action film; car metal crunching, bullets whizzing through the air, and explosions. Plenty of explosions! During the restaurant scene where Wax is eliminating oncoming henchmen with guns, bullets fly by, and panning effects make the bullets sound like they're inches away from your head as they zoom from the front channels, through the side speakers to the rear. LFE is in full force for most of the film. After Wax becomes involved in the story I don't think there's a moment where the sub settles down. Explosions, car chases, and gun battles all lend themselves to a heavy helping of bass that will shake the room up until the final moments. Dialogue is very strong, and never becomes overpowered by the ongoing action surrounding it. Where the video presentation failed to hook me, the sound presentation went above and beyond what I had expected.
Kudos to Lionsgate for again putting together a 7.1 mix. It's time that it became more prevalent, and an action movie like 'From Paris with Love' is the perfect place to showcase what 7.1 sound can really do.
'From Paris with Love' is a fun-loving, action ride in which John Travolta actually looks like he's having a good time. Mix that in with an adequate video presentation, a close to demo-worthy audio presentation, and a nicely rounded special features section and you've got yourself a recommended Blu-ray. Check it out!