Gibson's `Paparazzi' is ugly vengeance fantasy

Movie Review

September 07, 2004|By Roger Moore | Roger Moore,ORLANDO SENTINEL

The first movie Mel Gibson put his name and his face on after The Passion of the Christ is a petulant, violent and sophomoric hissy fit about those nasty photographers who torment the rich and famous.

Talk about your false prophets.

Paparazzi, which Gibson produced and further endorsed by making a cameo - and not nailing anybody's hand to anything this time - is just vile.

Every ugly story ever attached to the vultures who make their living taking candid shots of celebrities is repeated. Every hysterical Tom Cruise or George Clooney rant about the tactics, amorality and venality of paparazzi is trotted out in first-time writer Forrest Smith's sputtering script.

This laughably heavy-handed and violent melodrama is like photographing fish in a barrel. Who is going to take up for the creeps who land those topless shots of Fergie, who fake photos and make their money from magazines that put aliens, JonBenet, O.J. and the Hilton or Bush sisters on every cover?

Cole Hauser stars as Bo Laramie, a newly crowned action star with a wife (Robin Tunney), a kid and a new world to cope with - of red carpets, insipid interviews and camera flashes.

It's the cameras that start to sour the star of Adrenalin Force 2 on show business. A soccer-dad Kodak moment leads to a confrontation with Rex Harper, creepiest of the creeps who skulk around with cameras, looking for a paycheck. Tom Sizemore is a lot more believable in the part than his mom would like.

Bo punches Rex in a set-up that is videotaped. Rex sues. And he and his running mates - a grimy, ugly bunch that includes Daniel Baldwin - promise Bo a world of pain.

The villains surround his car, on the road, and flashbulb Bo into a wreck that puts his family in the hospital and the cops on their case. Dennis Farina is the starstruck lead detective.

And then Bo stumbles into a solution. He can kill these guys and get away with it.

Hauser is a tall, chiseled type who is sort of a Gibson sans charisma. He grinds his teeth, mutters "Aalllllll-right" and "Ooooooookaay" at each new assault on his family's privacy and person.

And then he takes care of business.

First-time director Paul Abascal is an ex-hairdresser whose debut film wallows in melodramatic excesses - tense, shrieking music, spitting, sputtering villains and a hero who is right and righteous because, well, he's a celebrity. And even celebrities have vengeance fantasies.

Producer Gibson, who learned how to put a movie out there without pre-release reviews with Passion, sneaks this garbage into theaters in the lucrative Labor Day weekend without a peep. It's telling that his cameo in this comes in a scene at a psychiatrist's office where Bo is being taught anger management. What a switch from the Gibson-produced Singing Detective. His motives there, we've heard, were to give his troubled pal Robert Downey Jr. a job. Here, he just wants payback.

The first time the world heard the word "paparazzi" was in Fellini's La Dolce Vita, describing the antic motor-scooter riding photo freelancers longing for a shot of Anita Ekberg taking a dip in a public fountain. Now it stands for heartless heels.

But it's not exactly a genre with a future. Not as long as we keep snapping up The Globe and The Star at supermarkets.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Paparazzi

Starring Cole Hauser, Dennis Farina, Tom Sizemore, Daniel Baldwin, Robin Tunney

Directed by Paul Abascal

Released by 20th Century Fox

Time 85 minutes

Rated PG-13 (intense violent sequences, sexual content and language)

SUN SCORE *

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