As personal assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to France, James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) longs for some more adventurous way to serve his country. His big break comes when he's called to chaperone a top American field agent in Paris on business, Charlie Wax. Wax, first encountered delivering a crotch bump and a "Checkmate, mothafucka" as his goodbye to French airport security, is a husky, goateed 55-year-old butch dude dressed up in a keffiyeh and other Urban Outfitters gear, with a bald pate and earrings. A shoe-in part for John Travolta, then, most recently seen shouting, "Lick my bunghole" in that Pelham 1, 2, 3 remake, here in all his compellingly horrible jivey splendor. We've heard the line "I'll admit, his playbook is a bit unorthodox" as often as we've seen an uptight bureaucrat like Reese teamed with a loose cannon like Wax; From Paris lays down the premise and gets hustling. Director Pierre Morel and producer Luc Besson, whose EuropaCorp studio did very well with last year's Taken, once again glorify the brutal/efficient Yankee abroad with his "very particular set of skills." Wax's particular skills are being deployed to foil a terrorist suicide-bomb assassination scheduled to mar an upcoming Aid to Africa summit. Morel's action pieces—spark-showering gunfights, a bazooka on the freeway, all generally set to chugging bad-ass guitar—are nothing to place him in the upper echelon of action directors, but at least he brings in lobotomized entertainment at 95 efficient minutes.
Travolta gives the French a jive lesson.
Opens at area theaters, Fri., Feb. 5. Rated R. 95 minutes.