IF JOHN TRAVOLTA stars in a movie set in France, there are really only two ways the movie can go: Either he doesn't make the "Royale with cheese" joke, or he does.
You'll be relieved to learn that in From Paris with Love, the new action flick from Pierre Morel (director of Taken and District B13, and cinematographer of The Transporter), Travolta does make the "Royale with cheese" joke—not once, but twice. It's totally awkward and unfitting for the movie, too, busting down an already shaky fourth wall with a cheap laugh that'll only remind you how far Travolta has plummeted in the decade-and-a-half since his career resurgence with Pulp Fiction.
With an enormous shaved head and a pubic-looking goatee, Travolta doesn't so much resemble the unstoppable tough guy he's supposed to be playing as much as a jumbo loaf of soggy meat. He plays Charlie Wax (yes, there's a "wax on, wax off" joke), a US special agent dispatched to France to uncover a Pakistani drug ring. His sidekick is James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), the assistant to the US ambassador. It's a typical action-buddy movie scenario, where Wax effortlessly blasts away every opponent who appears onscreen, and the anal Reece sputters helplessly and complains about how his girlfriend is going to be angry with him for missing dinner.
The girlfriend is named Caroline, but it's pronounced "Carol-een" because we're in France. She's played by Kasia Smutniak and is totally interesting, in that patented European way of looking devastatingly sad and mouth-gapingly hot at the same time. The drug ring actually goes deeper than either Wax or Reece suspected—gasp!—so they have to kill a lot more people than originally planned. Cars blow up, guns are fondled, and many, many non-white people are killed. Also, it's a movie made by Frenchmen, so we are reminded over and over that Americans are rude. (Boy, are we ever!)
About 40 minutes into From Paris with Love, the violence stops registering and you'll probably find yourself resigned to smirking at the ridiculous spectacle. The movie flies by at a happily steady gait, and there are two images that I'll cherish for at least a couple more minutes: (1) an obscenely bald John Travolta flying down the freeway (autoroute? Whatever they call them in France), leaning out of the passenger side of a sedan and flourishing a bazooka, and (2) the exquisite, winsome, sweetly, and tenderly sad—oh, how very, exquisitely sad she looks, even when she smiles—Kasia Smutniak. There, there, Kasia. We'll always have this shitty movie about Paris.