A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this overly elaborate action thriller is filled to the brim with gunfights, blood, and bullet-spraying sequences. It attempts to be more complex than the average shoot-'em-up, but the violence is so unrelenting that it becomes numbing. There's also lots of rough-and-tumble language (including "s--t" and "f--k"), scenes with drug imagery and use, and a sequence in which a man picks up a prostitute and has sex with her (no nudity shown, but plenty of moaning). The movie's political themes oversimplify present-day concerns about security.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) has an important job at the American embassy in Paris as an assistant to the ambassador, but he’d rather be a CIA agent. He's performed low-level jobs for the agency before, but nothing too exciting until he gets called on to pair up with Charlie Wax (John Travolta), a veteran agent with an unorthodox approach to the job. Right from the start, James isn’t sure that he and Charlie make a good team, but there’s no time to second-guess. A terrorist plot is unfolding that threatens national security.
Is it any good?
This movie's over-the-top and muddled, and discerning audiences aren’t likely to feel the love. Director Pierre Morel clearly attended the school of buddy-cop action films: FROM PARIS WITH LOVE has nearly all the ingredients of an edge-of-your-seat thriller: carefully choreographed sequences, a torrent of fast-paced fights and chases, suspense. What’s lacking? First, a plot that, at the very least, isn’t so annoyingly convoluted as to distract from enjoying the movie in the first place. And chemistry between the two leads, which is passably awkward at best and tin-eared at worst. The partnership between James and Wax simply doesn’t fly -- a problem considering its metamorphosis is somewhat essential to the story.
As the rogue Wax, Travolta impresses with his enthusiasm. But we never once forget that we’re seeing Travolta playing “bad.” As for Rhys Meyers -- his American accent is full of holes, with Britishisms leaking out everywhere. Though he’s a fine actor, he doesn’t seem fully comfortable playing this role. But, really, the problem’s the plot, which panders to today’s terrorist fears. And though film buffs may appreciate the Quentin Tarantino reference made by, of course, Travolta, it’s yet another awkward moment in an overly violent, nuanced-starved enterprise.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in this film. Do you feel emotionally affected by watching the gunshots and deaths? How is this experience different from what you would feel like if you saw these things in real life?
Charlie Wax appears to perform his duties with little emotional response. Is this necessary in his line of work? What makes him and James similar? Or different? What more relatable jobs require some emotional distance?
- In theaters: February 5, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: June 8, 2010
- Cast: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak
- Director: Pierre Morel
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong bloody violence throughout, drug content, pervasive language and brief sexuality
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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