“Kaboom!” “Whoosh!” “Bang!” “Motherfucker!” Those are the signature sounds of any action film, but add the fact that Luc Besson and John Travolta are involved in the project and you’ve got far more potential for the chief tenets of the CIA/shoot ‘em up genre to be grossly overused. To give you a sense of just how overused, let me run the gist of the story by you: James Reece (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is the prim, by the book pretty boy to the gruff, let’s get this shit done style of CIA operative Charlie Wax (John Travolta). Reece, accustomed to the clean and controlled side of governmental affairs (he is the chief aide to the foreign ambassador), thinks he is truly ready for the covert ops side of life. An unnamed higher power heeds Reece’s pleadings and assigns him to a mission with loose cannon Charlie Wax (if this sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because it’s already happened in movies like Breach, Rush Hour, Crash, Point Break, Hot Fuzz, et. al.). Based on this synopsis alone, it's probably safe to say that Luc Besson, discernibly, has lost his flare for the offbeat storylines of early nineties favorites The Professional and Nikita.
The only problem standing in the way of Reece totally embracing the erratic nature of the case he has been thrown into with Wax (a case with imprecisions galore that never really get clarified, but you know it somehow pertains to cocaine, terrorism, and Africa) is his fiancée Caroline. When Reece tells her he has to meet his partner at the airport, she is forced by the extremely corny writing to say, “Just don’t forget who your real partner is.” But then again, she did owe him retribution for an earlier line he delivered that took place while they were kissing, prompting him to say (gag), “Why don’t we skip dinner and go straight to dessert?” I couldn’t believe that was seriously deemed an acceptable line in the final rewrite of the script.
The dialogue would be forgivable if there was at least something memorable or unique about the plot, but quelle surprise, there is nothing shocking whatsoever about the film's denouement. Caroline, who Reece trusted implicitly, turns out to be the villain and Reece, although reluctant to come to grips with her betrayal, pulls himself together in time to pop her one in the forehead at the Embassy meeting. Like I said, quelle surprise. And after sitting through all of that, there weren't even any remarkable shots of Paris other than the Eiffel Tower.
The only worthwhile reason to see From Paris With Love is to hear John Travolta say "Royale with cheese" again, though it didn't really seem like anyone in the theater was privy to the allusion. In case you're one such ignorant filmgoer, it's a Pulp Fiction reference.