On The Aisle
By Tony Macklin
“From Paris with Love” is a raucous cartoon. You have to decide whether you want to take this wild ride. It’s dippy, dopey and dizzying.
The Tasmanian Devil and the Road Runner have nothing on Charlie Max, played way-over-the-top by John Travolta.
Max is a staccato killing machine, who has no morals and little sense. Travolta blusters, cavorts and grins broadly as the uncontrollable Max. He’s more middle-aged maniacal Max than his predecessor Mad Max.
“From Paris with Love” is an erratic buddy movie. It starts by focusing on James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who is an aide to the U.S. ambassador in Paris and who becomes engaged to a comely young woman (Kasia Smutniak).
Reese, young and callow, wants more espionage responsibilities, but he is relegated to minor activities, such as changing license plates. But he gets his chance when agent Charlie Max comes to Paris, and he partners with him. Max takes him on a frantic, frenetic chase after Asian drug dealers and Middle Eastern terrorists.
It’s a killing spree. A thousand bodies later, the buddies have to stop a bombing and through bleary, bloody eyes, Reese faces his moment of truth.
Director Pierre Morel (“Taken”) keeps his film moving so that thought never catches up. It’s pretty mindless.
The lazy screenplay is by weak writer Adi Hasak from a story by Luc Besson. Hasak clumsily borrows Pulp Fiction’s sandwich-Royale with cheese. Not once, twice. “From Paris with Love” is adrenaline with cheese.
‘Edge Of Darkness’
“Edge of Darkness” gives Mel Gibson’s career a needed jolt, actually several jolts. Every time the movie threatens to lag, there’s a startling shock of violence and Gibson is usually right in the middle of it.
Mel, looking appropriately haggard after years of personal shame and struggle, plays Tommy Craven, a Boston police detective who becomes committed to finding out why his daughter was slain. Was it one of his enemies, or something else?
“Edge of Darkness” is a surprisingly well-done thriller — well-written, well-directed and well-acted. Unfortunately, after an hour and a half of substantial filmmaking, it collapses into a “Lethal Weapon” No. 6 climax. But the bulk of the film is worthy.
“Edge of Darkness” is a remake of an extremely successful 1985 mini-series on BBC-TV in England. The original was divided into six 50-minute episodes. It was 314 minutes, while the new movie is a taut 108.
Both versions were directed by Martin Campbell, who also directed “GoldenEye” and “Casino Royale.” Campbell knows his action, and uses close-ups to advantage. He skillfully focuses on a pistol in a hand, water swirling down a sink, a hand with a lock of hair. And his use of the nearly constant rain creates an evocative atmosphere.
“Edge of Darkness” is a tale of revenge and intrigue that leads the tormented policeman on a path into corporate greed, radioactive scheming, volatile paranoia, and brutal conspiracy. Gibson is a good choice to lead us on this careening chase. His stride is weary but purposeful.
Ray Winstone effectively plays Jedburgh, in a role originally intended for Robert De Niro. Jedburgh is a dangerous but philosophical man of mystery, and he and Craven warily bond in a world of death and deceit.
Bojana Novabovic plays Craven’s daughter Emma, but the scenes between Craven and Emma’s ghost-like presence sometimes smack of coyness.
The screenplay, by William Monahan — who won the Oscar for adapting “The Departed” — and Andrew Bovell, Americanizes the movie.
It’s a somewhat literate script; one character even quotes Scott Fitzgerald. And there’s a lengthy scene of Craven and Jedburgh having a conversation in Craven’s yard. It may bore action fans, but they need not worry. Action is coming.
Very ironically, Mel Gibson isn’t anywhere to be seen in the penultimate wipeout scene.
Maybe Mel has had enough of the Apocalypse. Yeah, right.
Tony Macklin, a former college English and film professor, is still foraging for truth in literature and film, in Arkansas, Las Vegas and beyond.