Terrible title. I apologize. But it came into my head and made me laugh, so I went with it. That’s how we do over here at The Stonay Film Critic.
I was really looking forward to this one. In fact, the poster for this movie had a lot to do with my starting this blog in the first place. I was getting off at the Nassau G stop to walk a dog and there it was: a poster of Travolta sporting a giant earring, goattee, and what appeared to be a bald cap. I sent out a mass text as soon as I got above ground. The next day at the Greenpoint station the From Paris With Love poster was directly across from a hilarious Extraordinary Measures* poster with Ford and Fraser walking side-by-side. It made coming home from work that much sweeter.
*Never could bring myself to see that one.
It also made me think about the type of movies that usually advertise in subways, and who goes to see them. I realized that since I haven’t had television for the past 6 months, the only movies I know about are the ones advertised in the subway. What it would be like if I went to see one of these movies every week? It’s an exercise that appealed to me for a variety of reasons. The point is, Travolta’s ridiculous mug on that poster spawned this blog. Naturally I was pretty excited to see the movie. I figured it would be chock full of laughs at Travolta’s expense. I was wrong.
It’s not that Travolta’s character wasn’t ridiculous enough. He was. His name was Charlie Wax, for crying out loud. Within his first 10 minutes onscreen he says, “Wax on, wax off.” He blows coke. He curses. He eats Big Macs and calls them Royales With Cheese*. He kills dozens of people. And I know I already mentioned it, but I think it bears repeating: he’s bald, he has a goattee, and he wears a giant earring in his left ear. All this, and not a laugh to be found. Why?
*I’m sure some people thought this was cool, but I thought it was incredibly cheesy. Maybe I’m just too cynical.
It starts with Jonathan Rhys Meyers. The first 15 or 20 minutes of the movie are his and his alone, and they are excruciating. He’s an aide at the US embassy in Paris, he’s trying to become a special ops agent, and he loves his girlfriend. He smiles at her….a lot. It doesn’t look natural. You see the same smile used later in the movie during interaction with Travolta. It gave me the willies both times.
Rhys Meters gets a call from his prospective secret-agent-man boss telling him he’s in like Flynn if he can complete this one special mission, and he needs to pick up his partner at the airport. I’m sure you can take it from here. Travolta is the partner, and he is UN. CON. VENTIONAL!!!!! But boy does he ever get the job done.
The next hour is spent romping around Paris while Travolta kills people who we have to assume are enemies of some kind. It actually never becomes clear who the real villain is. There are asian drug dealers, vague references to Pakistanis, and a few glimpses of a suspicious-looking muslim in a car. You eventually figure out a bomb is being smuggled into the embassy, but you never figure out exactly why. Some official-looking woman in a limo seems to be the target, but I was never clear on who she was. Some kind of visiting official, or some such. I guess it’s not important.
I’m obligated to mention here that Travolta actually wasn’t that bad. Yes, his character was absurd, but that was exactly how he was supposed to play him. What makes Travolta hilarious isn’t that he can’t act, its that he picks the most ridiculous roles. Look at the movies he’s been in since his renaissance in Pulp Fiction: Hairspray, Michael, Battlefield Earth, Phenomenon, Swordfish, Basic, The Punisher, Wild Hogs, Face-Off, Old Dogs, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, the list goes on. Think of the characters he played in those movies. Now think of the mind that would choose to play those characters. Travolta is obviously a lunatic.
Having said that, I can no longer say he’s a bad actor. What I realized while watching him portray Charlie Wax is that while Travolta may select terrible parts, he goes at them with reckless abandon. Sure his movies are never good, but I somehow end up seeing every single one of them. There’s something to be said for that. The man isn’t boring, give him that.
Unfortunately, this movie is boring. Very. It’s the most boring 85 minutes I’ve spent since the second time I saw Constantine. The first time was awesome.
Next Week: The Wolfman. Maybe our first good subway movie?