The Films of Pierre Morel
District B13 & Taken
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From Paris With Love (October 18/11)
Directed by Pierre Morel, From Paris With Love details the chaos that ensues after an Ambassador's aide (Jonathan Rhys Meyers' James Reece) agrees to help a rogue American agent (John Travolta's Charlie Wax) prevent a terrorist attack - with the latter's unconventional methods landing the former in hot water with his superiors and his girlfriend (Kasia Smutniak's Caroline). It's a workable premise that's squandered from the word go by Morel, as the filmmaker, working from Adi Hasak's screenplay, has infused the movie with an incongruously deliberate pace that's exacerbated by a lack of both context and character development. There is, as a result, never a point at which the viewer is able to wholeheartedly work up any interest in the protagonists' ongoing efforts, with the needlessly convoluted storyline and pervasive lack of momentum effectively draining the film's action sequences of their energy and impact. It doesn't help, either, that Travolta, charismatic as he may be, is simply unable to convincingly step into the shoes of his seemingly indestructible character, as the actor's tubby physique and advanced age stand in sharp contrast to Wax's penchant for effortlessly fighting his way out of any given situation. The inclusion of a surprisingly decent twist at around the one-hour mark admittedly does improve things substantially, with the movie's third act subsequently packing more thrills and excitement than one could have reasonably expected. It's a strong stretch that isn't, in the final analysis, able to compensate for the hopelessly dull nature of everything preceding it, which effectively cements From Paris With Love's place as just another underwhelming contemporary actioner.
An almost astonishing dull and misguided thriller, The Gunman follows Sean Penn's Jim Terrier as he becomes the target of deadly assassins while working on a humanitarian basis in the Congo - with the movie detailing the very long, very slow battle that ensues between Jim and his pursuers. It's clear right from the outset that filmmaker Pierre Morel, working from a script by Penn and Pete Travis, isn't looking to cultivate an atmosphere of coherence or even entertainment, as The Gunman, by and large, suffers from a hopeless lack of narrative propulsion that's compounded by Penn's unusually wooden performance and a storyline that remains impenetrable from start to finish - which ensures that the viewer remains entirely unable to work up an ounce of interest in or sympathy for the central character's plight. The remarkably uninvolving vibe grows more and more suffocating as time slowly progresses, with The Gunman's few action sequences, which admittedly aren't terrible, consequently unable to pack the visceral punch that Morel has clearly intended. It's ultimately difficult not to wonder just which demographic The Gunman has been geared towards, as the movie across all levels and boasts virtually zero attributes designed to even fleetingly sustain one's attention - which finally does confirm the film's place nothing less than a jawdropping trainwreck of decidedly epic proportions.
no stars out of
A disappointing misfire, Peppermint follows Jennifer Garner's Riley as she embarks on a campaign of revenge after her husband and young daughter are brutally murdered by vicious drug dealers. Filmmaker Pierre Morel kicks off Peppermint with a fairly promising in-media-res opening that seems to be setting the stage for a gritty, hard-edged thriller, yet the movie almost immediately segues into a tedious and distressingly meandering midsection almost entirely devoid of compelling interludes (ie the first action sequence doesn't arrive until the 45 minute mark!) It doesn't help that scripter Chad St. John places a continuing (and entirely needless) emphasis on several cops and their efforts at stopping Garner's vigilante, while, in a far more problematic development, the screenwriter eschews scenes of Riley getting revenge on key figures in favor of the aforementioned police's investigation of said crimes. (There's one especially infuriating example early on as Riley's execution of the three men directly responsible for her family's deaths is left entirely off screen.) The film's less-than-involving atmosphere is especially disappointing given Garner's strong work as the seemingly unstoppable protagonist, as the actress sheds her maternal image and returns to her Alias roots to convincingly become this determined, go-for-broke ass-kicker. And while the picture's second half does contain a small handful of engrossing sequences (eg Riley storms a house occupied by gun-toting villains), Peppermint climaxes with a hopelessly drawn-out finale that ensures the whole thing ends on a seriously underwhelming note - which effectively (and ultimately) confirms the movie's place as a missed opportunity of major proportions.