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Paparazzi (January 6/05)

Watching Paparazzi - a laughably over-the-top thriller - it's impossible not to wonder if the filmmakers felt they were making a serious, realistic look at the relationship between celebrities and the paparazzi. Given that the villain of the piece - a particularly sleazy photographer played by Tom Sizemore - hasn't got a single redeeming value and in fact barely seems human, one must assume that everyone involved with the film knew exactly what they were doing and the goal was to create a super-campy action flick.

Cole Hauser stars as Bo Laramie, an actor on the verge of international stardom thanks to the release of his first starring vehicle (an '80s-style shoot-'em-up called Adrenaline Force). While attending his son's soccer game, Bo notices a photographer named Rex Harper (played by Sizemore) snapping shots of his boy - something that the actor refuses to stand for. Though Bo asks politely, Rex keeps on taking pictures and even goads Bo into punching him (the moment is captured by three of Rex's cronies, who just happened to be hanging out in his van). The feud escalates after Rex's antics cause Bo and his family to suffer a horrific car crash, which sends his son into the hospital with a coma. Obviously, Bo isn't going to let this go unpunished and begins a campaign of revenge against the four photographers.

One of the film's many producers is Mel Gibson, who also makes a brief cameo appearance, and it's easy enough to see why the actor/director would find this material appealing. As someone who is undoubtedly hounded by photographers on a daily basis, Paparazzi must be the ultimate in wish-fulfillment for Gibson. And while the premise is sound, it's the execution and complete lack of subtlety that eventually turns the film into Mystery Science Theater 3000 fodder. Right from the get-go, Sizemore's Rex comes off as a figure that's just evil; as the movie progresses, one might expect a revelation that Bo killed Rex's dog when they were kids and he's been holding a grudge ever since. But it quickly becomes apparent that no such disclosure is in the offing, and as a result, Rex might as well wear a black hat and grow a moustache (for twirling purposes, you see) - the character is clearly no more complex than that iconic image.

It's too bad, really, given the impressive roster of performers assembled. Hauser is actually quite charismatic and engaging in the lead role, so much so that one can't help but hope he'll have further opportunities following this debacle. The supporting cast is peppered with familiar faces, including Robin Tunney (as Bo's wife), Daniel Baldwin, and Dennis Farina - while several celebrities make pointless cameos as Bo's friends and co-workers. Paul Abascal's direction is the very definition of workmanlike, though he deserves some kudos for keeping the running time to around 80-minutes (ensuring that the movie's never entirely boring).

Paparazzi will never be remembered as a classic revenge flick (the PG-13 rating certainly doesn't help), but it seems fairly obvious that the movie is one of those that'd be made far more watchable with the assistance of alcohol (rowdy friends would also be an asset).

out of

About the DVD: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment presents Paparazzi with a pristine widescreen transfer, along with a commentary track (featuring director Abascal), deleted scenes, a couple of featurettes, and several trailers.
© David Nusair