From producer/writer Luc Besson comes another action movie with American leads set in Paris, and while it is largely competent from a technical standpoint, there are some jarring tonal shifts which may not sit right with everyone. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays James Reese, the personal assistant of the American diplomat in Paris. He's excellent at his job, but he longs for a more exciting life as a spy. Enter Charlie Wax (John Travolta), who is everything the straight-laced Reese isn't: first and foremost an actual secret agent, and in general a rather aggressive personality. The two of them team up to finish a job, and prove to Reese's boss that he can cut it as a "member of the club."
From the first few frames, it was clear that this would be a well-shot movie (from Pierre Morel, who also directed TAKEN), but upon hearing Jonathan Rhys Meyers open his mouth I lost a lot of hope that it would be a well-acted one. He was uninspiring and uncharismatic in the worst way possible. Thankfully, John Travolta showed up to chew the scenery and add some life into what was essentially a bargain-basement spy thriller with great production values. Even though it seemed like he was in a completely different movie, his presence lightened the mood a little bit, even if he didn't really have much chemistry with Meyers. If there's one saving grace about this film, other than having technically proficient action and good cinematography, it was Travolta.
Pausing a moment to discuss the plot, I thought that it was rather formulaic and rote in its approach to this rather overdone genre. I get that the title is a sort-of nod to James Bond, but this can't hold a candle to that franchise. Not only that, but the plot didn't make much sense either, and character motivation was either muddled or non-existent, particularly with a third act twist which reveals who the true villain is. Even though this is an over-the-top action movie with elements that are a bit removed from reality, the least they could have done was to try and make it somewhat coherent.
However, despite all of the shortcomings there are enough elements in the film to give it a loose recommendation. John Travolta is truly awesome in his role as the fast-talking secret agent with an itchy trigger finger and a warped sense of humor. There are also a number of well-executed action and fight sequences which don't hold back in terms of what they show (as opposed to something like TAKEN). Pierre Morel is a master behind the camera, and it shows. Also, since this movie is set in Paris and stars John Travolta, they go for an easy (but still funny) Pulp Fiction joke. Overall, fans of mindless action should find a lot to enjoy here, while everyone else would be better served watching a Bond film or checking out one of Luc Besson's other, better productions.