Monday, March 29, 2010

From Paris with Love

And so the theatrical drought months continue. This week's victim... From Paris with Love. A title that makes about as little sense as the film itself. Being the second joint venture from latter day action guru Luc Besson and director Pierre Morel, a better title for this cinematic mess would have been "Cluster-frak to the Plot Device."

The plot, near as I can tell, follows James Reese played by Tudors star Jonathan Rhys Meyers, an aspiring US ambassador's assistant stationed in Paris. Days before a US official arrives for a summit meeting, Reese is unwittingly planted alongside American wild-card hit-guy Charlie Wax, a terribly miscast and silly looking John Travolta, and the two stumble upon some, well, terrorist stuff somehow.

Luc Besson can still function as a producer and Morel's visual style is tailor made for the action genre, however the script by Adi Hasak is as frustratingly pedestrian as it is blatantly immature. Travolta's role sounds specifically written for Wesley Snipes and when he either declined or wasn't available, nobody bothered to adjust it for Travolta and his doughy physique. Whether it's his overuse of MF-bombs or the idiotic bald head/goatee combo, the outcome is unintentional comedy. And while it takes a great deal of finesse and planning to cut those action scenes around a middle aged chubster dressed like a Tusken Raider from Star Wars: A New Hope, you can't help but laugh at the fact that this is the guy who was in Old Dogs not two months ago. As a conglomerate of fifteen years of better action films, From Paris with Love contains enough laughs to warrant a Red Box rental if nothing else, but just know you'll be laughing AT it, not WITH it.


(Transcribed from 91.9FM's 91 Seconds on Film segment)

It's January and the cinematic dumping ground is officially upon us. If Moses had access to the movie Legion, the Jews would have been freed from Egypt in just under two hours without the hassle of plagues or sea parting. By all logic, Legion shouldn't be a movie. This means that a script was written, someone okayed the script, found financing and budget, A-list actors, crew, cooks, carpenters and a studio willing to put their name on it before it comes even close to a theatrical release. How any of these parties got involved beyond the scripting point can only be deduced to an inexplicably large sum of money.

So Legion gives us the Paul Bettany as the Archangel Michael who has come to 21st century earth to save humanity from a vengeful God by preserving the life of a baby that is apparently important to this scenario for reasons we never find out. So he holes up in a middle of nowhere desert diner with a band of red-shirts that are either wholly unlikable or terribly dull. So instead of applying anything from the book or revelations, God decides he's an Evil Dead fan and possesses humans to serve as an easily disposable army against Bettany and his sharpshooting stowaways. For a director with a background firmly rooted in special effects work, the visual effects in Legion are laughable and frequently edited around with more shots of blazing gun barrels and bouncing machine gun shells. It's hard to tell if the actors were in on a joke the director wasn't aware of because Dennis Quaid and Charles S. Dutton phone in the best performances of their latter day careers, unfortunately through characters that have either no thematic relevance or real narrative purpose beyond demon fodder. I'd say that Legion is to the point of "so bad it's funny" but after a certain point even the unintentional laughs become predictable creating a misfire of truly biblical proportions.