From Paris with Love; R, 112 minutes; Opening Friday

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What a quaint little picture this is. From Paris with Love is an R-rated movie for the person you were before you were old enough to get into R-rated movies. A throwback to a time when all an action thriller had to do was dispense with menacing minorities by the dozen; when all an American in Paris had to do was bed the willing women, and remind the men who saved who in WWII. It’s the kind of movie whose failure to invest in its supporting characters is explained—not justified­—when that person turns out to be a villain very much in need of being blown away. Bring it.
 

Remember the ’90s? Bad guys are dropped from the script like so much trash in From Paris with Love.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays a sedulous junior-grade CIA man working in Paris as an assistant to the American ambassador (Richard Durden), resisting bourgeois bliss with his randy French girlfriend (Kasia Smutniak), and yearning for the greater thrill of special ops. Then he gets the big break he wants and deserves, in the form of John Travolta, an “unorthodox” American field-agent partner.
 
The trigger-happy Tweedledum to Rhys Meyers’ trigger-shy Tweedledee, this Travolta is bald and bodacious, complete with goatee, hoop earring, gleaming .45, and willingness to reference his own Pulp Fiction shtick that’s almost as shameless as the Old Dogs music video he made with his daughter. But judging by the blithe cogitation on his beefy face, as if he’s thinking only about how to spend his beefy paycheck, he’s quite delighted to lead the way through director Pierre Morel’s glib, cocaine-clouded cartoon bloodbath. 
 
Adi Hasak’s screenplay credit notwithstanding, From Paris With Love clearly originates from a story by Luc Besson, and, in the self-conscious Eurotrash tradition of other Besson-Morel pairings such as District  B13 and Taken, amounts to just another ass-kicking, bomb-ticking, buddy-flicking potboiler.
 
“Tell me that wasn’t some impressive shit,” Travolta says after one of several ho-hum action scenes that feels like it was edited with a Cuisinart. To which Rhys Meyers makes a helpless face for all of us. 
 
At least From Paris With Love can’t be accused of wasting time. The action unfolds in taut (if cheesy) scenes, and the plot makes quick work of answering (largely unasked) questions with more questions. For instance, when the time is right, it becomes rather urgently apparent that the nature of the partners’ mission is not as it seems. That is, it’s not really about the Asians and their drugs; it’s about the Middle Easterns and their terrorism!
 
And before we know it, Travolta’s chirping “Come to daddy” in a high-speed freeway chase, hoisting a rocket launcher from the back seat, while Rhys Meyers punctuates speeches on love with slugs to the head. Well, thanks for the postcard. Don’t wish we were there.
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