February 5, 2010, - 12:01 pm

Weekend Box Office: “From Paris With Love,” “Dear John” – Both Patriotic, Entertaining

By Debbie Schlussel

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.


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11 Responses

True love means sacrifice and you find things within you never thought you knew. Most of us can feel emotions. In a way, I have pity for those who don’t have a conscience and that challenges our idea that G-d gives every one a soul. Those of us who have it are very fortunate.

NormanF on February 5, 2010 at 2:06 pm

WOW awesome!!

linda jp on February 5, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Thank you for the reviews. Luc Besson (one of my all-time favorite directors) has never let me down – even though he wrote this. Was looking forward to seeing this film prior to your review, but after reading it, I want to see it even more so!

PatsPFS on February 5, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Awesome reviews, Debbie. I liked both these movies, too. Yes, it’s true that in terms of style and tone, in my opinion, From Paris with Love was slightly lacking. It presented just a fairly entertaining train of serviceable action punctuated by short interludes of light character interaction. This aspect of the film was presented programmatically without the memorable panache of the films that Besson actually directed himself (like The Transporter especially and also Fifth Element and Nikita).

The startling aspect about FPWL wasn’t it’s style or depth but rather related to how brazenly un-PC it was. Loved it!! The “Arab-Pakistani” terrorists are the story’s bad guys, and they’re bad, the movie asserts, even if they’re well intentioned with a “cause.” They probably can’t be saved from their stupidity, goes the subtext, because they’re so completely deluded. But they are evil–whatever their “fine” motives. Wow. Right! Even Adam Sandler’s Zohan and Zuckerman’s American Carol weren’t so unapologetically forceful with similar points.

(But I still miss films like Frankenheimer’s classic anti-Arab-terrorist film Black Sunday which was more psychologically nuanced; it was “deep,” challenging, and morally correct all at once.)

I generally have come to dislike Lasse Hallstrom who directed Dear John (for his liberally slanted movies like The Hoax , and his anti-guy movies like Chocolat and Shipping News), but within a couple minutes of watching this particular film, I was hooked. The two leads Seyfried and Tatum are both appealing; the morals and patriotism in the film are conservative; the direction was polished; Richard Jenkins had a fine, sympathetic part as the introverted father. Yes, the film is a weepie–but it’s an art to do this well without cloying (or, since the film is targeted to females, without demonizing all the male characters). The theater was packed at 11 a.m. on a Friday, yet there were only two males in the audience. Like you, I recommend this film not only to women but also to men who like me enjoy well-crafted melodrama.

It’s kind of eerie the way critics (except you, Debbie) refuse to discuss all the obvious political and moral subtext in movies like these just-released two. It’s a little like the way you won’t hear from Old Media about Van Jones, Anita Dunn’s love affair with Mao, Acorn tax advice to pimps, etc. The silence from these other critics is deafening.

Burke on February 5, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Smart marketing-“From Paris With Love” coming out right before Valentine’s Day. It sound’s RomCom.

Douglas Q on February 6, 2010 at 12:09 am

I saw From Paris with Love this weekend. I was very surprised.

First, according to the opening credits, Besson didn’t write the screenplay, but it was based on his story.

Based on the credits I thought this would be a Besson buddy action/fun type guy movie. While it sort of is, it was much more serious in tone than I thought it would be.

I loved the plot twist thrown in the middle of the movie.

I loved it.

Jeff_W on February 8, 2010 at 11:11 am

Just saw “Paris” with my wife. We both thought it is a yawn, a very predictable and failed melodrama, almost cartoonish in its action scenes.

Debbie, you are right with regard to the politics of the movie, but in terms of the screen drama itself the movie leaves much to be desired.

You write: “It’s fun to watch, even if some of it isn’t exactly believable.” Well, in our opinion, the movie isn’t believable at all. The plot is trite and contrived. The action is over the top and tedious, and so is Travolta.

In order to hold my interest, a melodrama must have a credible and potent villain. The villains in “Paris” are like Iraqi thugs trapped on the Highway of Death in the Gulf War. It is fun to watch Travolta shoot up the bad guys and blow up their stuff, but where is Judge Doom and his Dipmobile?

Sorry, you’re the only film critic we trust. Just disagreed this time.

Sherman on February 14, 2010 at 9:41 am

This movie was very misleading… from the title to the trailer. I was expecting a very different type of movie! The only message I got from that movie was that all Muslims are terrorist and ready to commit suicide. This is very false and not apart of the true Islamic teachings. I was very upset and insulted after leaving that movie. All it did was add to the ignorance of people. So much so that when I was leaving the theater a man remarks to me “shoot those terrorist!”. I truly do feel sorry for those of you who think that what you saw during that movie was what Islam teaches. I urge you do your own research…don’t take everything for face value and not to be ignorant. You can start your research here; http://www.whyislam.org/OrderLiterature/tabid/118/Default.aspx

May God guide you all.

a.parris on February 28, 2010 at 10:06 am

and I seriously wondered if people would like seeing hundreds of (false) stereotypes about arabs/muslims/pakistanis/whatever on a movie just because they get their heads blown up.. and apparently I was wrong.. they didn’t even notice

just because a bunch of people think they’ll get 72 virgins or whatever if they do that or this doesn’t mean they gotta be put in a movie as the bad guys.. cuz this way you just insulted another 1.3 Billion peaceful (and definitely not terrorist) muslims who have nothing to do with what these people do

delivering false stereotypes is not an ethical act by people who make blockbusters.. and although I liked the movie by the same amount everyone had, and had the same fun.. yet this all terrorists-trying to blow the world up-and-finally getting blown up- thing ruined it all

Ahmed on April 6, 2010 at 4:04 am

listen to them whine! to bad they dont say anything or whine as much about the terrorist themselves.

excellent movie – exactly what I wanted to see- to many pompous people here looking for the deep meaning.

“the movie isn’t believable at all. The plot is trite and contrived. The action is over the top and tedious, and so is Travolta.In order to hold my interest, a melodrama must have a credible and potent villain”

haha now that is trite! get over your self.

why do you people read debbie’s reviews? when your all a bunch of blowhards!!

it was what it was and debbie nailed it – no need for more.

markcon on March 6, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Here’s what I can’t wrap my mind around….

Is the movie more pathetic or this review is?

Now I know nothing I type will sway the hardcore believers of the concept that Islam is a religion of violence and all muslims are terrorists and yadda yadda blah blah crap. I’m not even gonna try and get into that. I’m going to keep this simple. Reading this review and the numerous supporting anti-Islam comments, if I was to use the same formula and extrapolate popular findings/beliefs of a sample of Americans over the entire American population, here is what I’ll get:

– Americans are dumb. Scratch that…Americans are dumbasses!
– Americans are bullies. Pathetic at it but still insist on trying to force their opinions onto others.
– Americans are war mongering psychopaths.
– Americans consume most of the recources of the planet and yet their effectiveness and productivity as a people is questionable.
and oh…
– Americans are also FAT!

Please do not reach any conclusions yet. FYI, I personally do not believe any of the above stated. Why? Because I have the common sense and the decency to not judge an entire country of people based on the few I have personally known or have seen on TV. If you Americans, particularly the writer of this review, cannot grasp on to this simple concept, then maybe you do fall in one of the above categories.

Shame on you to give a bad name to your people, much like the terrorists are doing to the rest of the muslims. Shame!

Yasir on November 6, 2012 at 10:23 am

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