Looking for plot threads, I found none

The Edge of Darkness & From Paris With Love

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            Watching "The Edge of Darkness" or "From Paris With Love" will test both your patience and your good will. If you are having trouble making this difficult choice, here are a few stray thoughts.

            Mel Gibson has lost his luster. In real life as well as in his movies, he has a judgmental arrogance that renders him aggrieved - a universally unappealing condition. In "The Edge of Darkness" he is Tommy Craven, a Boston police detective waiting for the arrival of his daughter Emma, an MIT graduate with a top secret career in nuclear science. She is shot dead in her father's doorway, and he will spend the rest of the movie tracking her killers while dispatching anyone who stands in his way.

            Emma worked for the Northmoor Corporation on its research floor where she was privy not only to national security secrets but also to the illegal activities of Northmoor's CEO who deals with transgressors by releasing fatal irradiated steam through the company infrastructure. And so the questions mount: was Emma a security risk to the U.S. ? Will detective Tommy be killed before he finds Emmas' killer?

            The sights: cars chases, guns, knives, radiation, betrayal, death. As the movie drives toward a blood soaked finale, it moves from dull through ordinary to ludicrous. As befits the movie of a man who traffics in violent imagery, one character sums up the ethics here by saying, "You better decide whether you're hanging on the cross or banging in the nails."

            If you opt instead for "From Paris With Love," you win from the beginning simply by the sight of John Travolta who plays an amoral super secret American agent who leaves an enormous body count in his wake. His victims die by guns, knives, mortars, explosions, and most frequently by being thrown over railings into stairwells after our hero has shot or slashed them.

            Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a proper young intelligence agent who prides himself on his own precision and reliability, becomes Charlie's assistant. When Charlie arrives in Paris, poor Reese has to set aside his new fiancÚ Caroline (a convincing and appealing Kasia Smutniak) to apprentice himself to Charlie who does things like slide down fire poles upside down with all guns blazing and bodies flying.

            Because John Travolta paints a comic book action figure in blazing colors, the movie becomes more funny than unpleasant. Looking for plot threads, I found none until at last it seemed, as all things do these days, to have something to do with terrorists and national security. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, though fatally burdened with a ridiculous moustache, makes a fine co-conspirator. John Travolta, head shaven, is a grand comic action hero and creator of the unexpected. As the bodies pile up, he gives his loopy secret agent a tiny touch, just enough to make all the difference, of his trademark charm. And the wink in his eye is as big as the sun.


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