February 5, 2010, - 12:01 pm
I was told by the studio that they changed the ending of “Dear John,” so I went to the Midnight showing, last night, to make sure I had seen the final cut. And I’m glad I did. It’s even better. That said, I’d have given THREE REAGANS to it and “From Paris With Love,” regardless, as I enjoyed both–in both American fighting men and counterterrorism forces are actually the good guys . . . for a change. There’s something for everyone this weekend, with “From Paris” aimed at guys, and “Dear John” aimed at chicks.
* “From Paris With Love“: This action-packed, hilarious movie is short and sweet at an hour-and-a-half, my ideal movie length. While this Luc Besson project isn’t nearly as good or as tight as his far-superior “Taken” (read my review), from last year, it’s good enough. I enjoyed it immensely, after about the first half-hour. If you liked “Taken,” you’ll like this.
For the first half-hour, it’s a wet-noodle movie, starring wet-noodle actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and then John Travolta makes U.S. counterterrorism agents look like unethical, coke-snorting thugs and pigs. But looks are deceiving. And the movie more than makes up for itself in the next hour.
It’s got everything I could want in a movie: heart-pounding action, guns, shooting, terrific car chase scenes, explosions, and funny line after funny line uttered by bad-ass John Travolta. More important, the bad guys–the terrorists–are actually, visibly Muslims and they get killed, blown-up, shot, and otherwise done away with; the Americans are the good guys; the French are inept and stupid; and U.S. State Department officials are inept and stupid.
No, they don’t tell you, “these terrorists are Muslim.” But Besson and scriptwriter Adi Hasak make it pretty clear. They look like Arabs, they’re referred to as Pakistanis (yes, I know Pakis are not Arabs, so pls. no corrections), Arabic graffiti is all over the terrorists’ walls, along with a Koranic Allah poster you see ever so briefly. They dress in Mid-East traditional garb, have suicide belts, have names like Rashid, and live in the Paris projects crime cesspool populated by that crowd in real life. That’ll do.
At the screening I attended the audience repeatedly applauded seeing these guys blown up and shot all the way to the 72 virgins. Americans are hungry for this kind of stuff that they rarely get from post-9/11 Hollywood. Besson isn’t afraid to violate that political correctness orthodoxy, as he did with “Taken,” showing us that sex slavers who kidnapped an American daughter in Paris are Bosnian and have Islamic crescent tattoos on their hands, and that those who buy the slaves are wealthy Arab Sheiks. Religion of Peace, Baby! Religion. Of. Pieces.
Meyers plays the assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to France. But privately, as is often the case with embassy officials, he’s moonlighting as an undercover operative. He’s stuck changing license plates in garages and wants to do more exciting espionage stuff. Soon, he’s assigned to pick up Charlie Wax–John Travolta–a tough-talking, gun-toting counterterrorism thug who’s actually far smarter and more directed in his mission than it first appears. I could have done without him and Meyers briefly snorting coke, but the rest is good stuff–they go after drug dealers who finance Islamic terrorism, and then they go after and kill the terrorists themselves. It’s fun to watch, even if some of it isn’t exactly believable. Meanwhile, Meyers’ French fiancee is upset by some of the activities.
This movie is extremely bloody and violent and filled with four-letter words in their various incarnations. It ain’t for kids. Don’t take them, and don’t send your young teenagers, either. I don’t mind violence in movies if it’s against the right people and for the right reasons, as is the case here.
If I had one reservation, it’s John Travolta’s constant wearing of a keffiyeh–the Islamic scarf of hate. Also, looking at the IMDB credits, another character is named, “Dir Yassin,” which is an anti-Israel reference, but I didn’t hear the name uttered in the movie. But that’s about it. There’s even an homage to Travolta’s turn in “Pulp Fiction” and his French cheeseburger, the “Royale with Cheese.”
Not the greatest movie, but great enough. For what it is and is supposed to be–not a deep movie, but an action flick where the terrorists are Islamic and they get sent to meet the 72 revirginized, not in the way they planned–it bats 1,000.
* “Dear John“: I liked this a lot because it’s very pro-military and patriotic. Whereas Hollywood generally portrays our military guys as bad guys, losers, mentally unstable, or worse, the U.S. Army soldier in this movie (the very hot Channing Tatum as “John Tyree”) is a saint, who enlists in Special Forces and re-enlists after watching the 9/11 attacks. He serves in Iraq and gets shot, and he’s just an all-around mensch. A ton of bad things happen to him, but he behaves with dignity and sacrifices everything for those he loves, with no expectation of getting anything in return.
This is definitely a chick flick. That said, it’s one of the better chick flicks and romantic dramas I’ve seen in a while. It’s a great, patriotic love story. And one I think guys could more than stand and even like. It’s not the usual sap, though it definitely manipulates your emotions and has its share of melodrama.
Like other Nicholas Sparks material (he wrote “The Notebook,” among others), this movie is a tear-jerker. My eyes welled up several times. It has a lot of sad, moving events, but fortunately, the studio clarified what was a sad ending by adding an additional scene with a more appropriate happy ending.
John Tyree is a Special Forces soldier on leave and the son of an autistic father and a mother who abandoned them. On the South Carolina beach, during the summer, he meets an upper middle-class college girl (Amanda Seyfried), after diving into the ocean to get her purse. Soon, they fall in love, but time is short. He must return to duty, and she returns to college. They communicate through letters and plan to be together when his year-long tour of duty is up. But 9/11 happens, and John is inspired–as is the rest of his unit–to re-enlist. Time apart wears on a relationship and things happen back home that you never expected.
I can’t say much more because that would give it away. But with the re-adjusted ending, it’s worth the trip. Bring a box of tissues.
Tags: 911, Amanda Seyfried, American soldier, Channing Tatum, Charlie Wax, counter-terrorism, counterterrorism, Dear John, France, From Paris With Love, Iraq, Islam, Islamic Terrorism, Islamic terrorists, John Travolta, John Tyree, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Luc Besson, military, Movie Reviews, Muslims, Nicholas Sparks, patriotic, Royale with Cheese, Special Forces, U.S. Army