Movie review: From Paris With Love

Luc Besson is a movie-making maniac, an action auteur whose signature is all over the films he produces and writes, though the ones he directs haven't measured up since The Professional, which is now 16 years ago.

Part Peckinpah, part Hong Kong, the movies Besson creates - including Pierre Morel's From Paris With Love, which he produced and wrote the story for (and, also this week, District 13: Ultimatum) -- are kinetic juggernauts, as carefully plotted with action beats as any of Jerry Bruckheimer's or Joel Silver's films, but with more wit and adrenaline. There's no pretense or wasted motion in Besson's films, and that includes little time spent trying to force sense into the script.

Rather, Besson's films are like elaborate wind-up toys that seldom rest. You crank them up, turn them loose and get out of the way. Perhaps the metaphor should be a Roman candle: sparking and exploding, always with one more little ball of fire at the end than you expect.

Morel obviously studied at the Besson school. In From Paris as in his previous Besson-mentored efforts, District B13 and Taken, he displays no real style of his own. His tropes are Besson's tropes, his carefree, breathless style is Besson's. The action flies by, with little time to make sense or do much more than assault the eyeball and tickle the pleasure center (make that the male pleasure center, which is so easily stimulated by explosions and automatic-weapon fire).

From Paris, from a story by Besson and a script by Adi Hasak, is built around Jonathan Rhys Meyers, as Reese, a smarty-pants attaché to the American ambassador to France. He's totally organized, speaks several languages, regularly trounces his boss at chess, has a gorgeous French girlfriend -- and secretly dreams of being a secret agent.