Everything in From Paris with Love is fast. The story moves quickly, the action is swift, the dialogue never slows, and the camera rarely stops moving. In fact, everything is too fast. One minute the protagonists are discussing the origins of egg foo young and the next they’re instigating a furious shootout with drug dealers. There’s never a break to build character, a pause to appreciate a joke, or cessations in the franticness to allow for explanation. Even the slow-motion moves too quickly. The film does have its moments, but it never slows down to the point that the audience can enjoy them.
On the outside, James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Myers) lives a normal life with his girlfriend Caroline (Kasia Smutniak) and works as the personal aide to an ambassador in Paris. Desperately wanting to do more, he begins working as a low level spy, executing the menial tasks of planting receivers and changing license plates. Pining for the adventure and danger of a real mission, he finally gets his wish when he’s partnered with the obnoxious Charlie Wax (John Travolta), a loud-mouthed operative who shoots first and rarely bothers with the questions. When the bullets start flying, James quickly realizes he’s in over his head and his personal life starts to fall apart as Wax leads him on a deadly race to stop a terrorist.
From Paris with Love is mindless fun, but without most of the fun. With so much action for the sake of throwing frenetic movement onto the screen, its only success is in a few moments when humor effectively mixes with the adventure. Too bad it happens so rarely. Travolta is clearly getting a kick out of portraying the loose-cannon, devil-may-care, completely invincible, unorthodox, bulletproof assassin, but the audience doesn’t get to participate. The mostly unexplained plot never gives the viewer a chance to care about the characters; standard villains are presented and predictably get in the way of unrelenting salvos of gunfire. Familiar generic terrorists are never given a motive to attack the World Summit for African Aide, baseball-bat-toting Asian street gangs are on hand for brawls, and ethnic thugs are quick to serve up drugs, armed robbery and physical altercations.
Wax is introduced bald head first with phrases like “Do I look like I play board games?” and “Wax on, Wax off” and a special gun named Mrs. Jones. It’s difficult not to partially admire a hero that you never once have to worry about, due to an uncanny arsenal of weaponry, unmatchable hand-to-hand combat skills and the ability to dodge bullets. But he’s also as cartoonish and comical as the extreme violence, pointless destruction and routine explosions. If only there was an ounce of creativity behind the mayhem. Instead, in a world with no rules, we’re left with the tiniest glimpse of moral conflict from rookie Reece, who just might not be cut out for a life of cold-blooded killing – until that fleeting moment is rapidly replaced by more bloodshed and a reason to abandon all peacekeeping ideals.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)