Before starting this review, I tried to remember John Travolta movies I had seen in the past ten years that weren’t completely pointless or terrible. This was difficult. A quick glance at the web found only one movie Travolta has done in this time that wasn’t awful: . Starting with and ending with , Travolta has a decade of roles he might regret playing.
This is probably an unfair comparison, considering that this is a “Luc Besson Euro-Trash Action Movie” through and through. You know the type, even if you don’t know the name. Perhaps you have seen one of the Transporter movies or Taken, which was also directed by the mind behind . Luc Besson wrote all of these.
Before Besson started writing formulaic action movies, he was a renowned director, most famously known for directing . That movie is the reason why you have heard of Natalie Portman. It is good movie, with dramatic portions that serve the action by giving the audience a reason to care about what is going on in the plot. It also has a terrific villain (which sorely lacks).
The reader of this review might think “Why does this matter?” Surely a great action movie can solely skirt by on the strange charisma of the lead actor. This is how Schwarzenegger and Stallone made their careers, by being compellingly strange men. One believes that Travolta fancies himself a strange man too. It is the only way one could explain Travolta’s portrayal of government operative Charlie Wax.
Has anyone seen ? Remember how Travolta looked in that movie with long hair and a black suit, looking both ridiculous and cool all at the same time? Well, Charlie Wax is the opposite of this: long black leather jacket, shaved head and rounded goatee. Wax spews profanity and refers to his gun his wife. Wax’s methods are unorthodox, but really he is just a good guy trying to teach the new guy the ropes.
Now, a sane reviewer would give this movie an extra star, admitting that it was passably made and a decent diversion if one does not expect much. However, this is precisely the problem! At some point, the artistry of action movies got lost in a flurry of CGI and editing.
The Schwarzenegger classic feels like Italian Neo-Realism compared to movies like . At least had real explosions, cheesy one-liners and a star that actually seemed like he was capable of performing his heroic acts within an alternate universe that we are more than happy to reside in.
But no! There is not one moment where Wax dives and slides and we believe it. Travolta is 56 years old, but this is not the issue. If we wanted to believe Travolta, then we would, but we don’t because Travolta has never been good in a conventional action movie, ever. It takes a movie of unusual character, usually with a dose of song or dance, to bring out the best of his talents.
Travolta needs to disco dance, metaphorically speaking, not shoot a gun.
Then again, if you can’t make a movie entertaining while having one of the main characters running around Paris with a two-foot blue vase full of cocaine for an half the running time, then perhaps there are much bigger problems here. I cannot recommend this movie less.