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Director: Paul Abascal
Cast: Cole Hauser, Tom Sizemore
arlier this year, Mel Gibson put out a small film that I think was called The Fashion of the Christ, or The Flagellation of the Christ, or something like that. Let me check my notes … ah, yes, The Passion of the Christ, which just came out on DVD last week. So there was no better time to release Paparazzi, the latest clunker to bear Gibson’s name, than when most of his flock is sitting at home with their Passion DVDs, loving all those side-splitting outtakes, the deleted scenes of fetishized torture and the alternate endings in which Jesus jumps off the cross and kicks some Sanhedrin ass.
Plus, Paparazzi—which Gibson and his Icon company helped produce—got dumped unceremoniously into theaters on a late-summer holiday weekend, which all but guarantees it will quickly disappear before inflicting too much harm on the reputations of those involved. And if this film weren’t so likely to fade instantly from memory, I would have another great reason to make fun of Mel Gibson, an activity I enjoy immensely.
A dreadful film whose association with Gibson likely rescued it from the direct-to-late-night-cable release it deserves, Paparazzi was not screened in advance for the press, a decision that is usually made for obvious reasons. It opens with up-and-coming actor Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser) attending the screening of his new movie, the hilariously titled Adrenaline Force. Once he steps out of the limo, he’s astonished to learn his new career as an A-list action star may involve having his picture taken in public. You might wonder how someone who spends his workday having his likeness committed to celluloid could be so averse to getting photographed. But Laramie, as we learn through some half-assed expository dialogue, is a different kind of Hollywood star. He’s a simple, old-fashioned fish out of water, a holdover from a different era, when people had values, dammit, and it was OK for them to go on killing sprees when those values were threatened.
"You have to understand—when you hang out in parks and take a lot of pictures, you kind of give off that Neverland Ranch vibe."
Early on, Laramie punches a sleazy photographer—played by Tom Sizemore, in a role he’ll probably leave off the résumé—for taking photos of Laramie’s young son. Soon, Laramie finds that a vindictive group of sleazebag shutterbugs is tracking his and his family’s every move. In a scene with clear parallels to the death of Princess Diana, a carload of paparazzi chase down Bo and his family, causing them to crash and putting his son in a coma. Then the camera shows a close-up of Bo’s face, his eyes narrow, and it’s payback time, bitch!
At this point, the film dovetails into a revenge plot hardly worth dignifying with an explanation, other than that it involves a lot of killing and the complicity of the Los Angeles Police Department, which until now had an untarnished reputation for honest police work. Bo drops one paparazzo off a cliff, arranges for one to be gunned down by the LAPD and bludgeons another to death with a baseball bat. The way it’s executed, we’re expected to cheer Bo along on his murderous rampage.
And they said Daniel Baldwin wasn't getting work...
Despite the brutish premise, and Bo’s notable lack of human qualities, the film—directed by Paul Abascal, a former hairstylist, and written by Forrest Smith, a former professional football player, if that tells you anything—does everything possible to stack the moral cards in Bo’s favor. Lacking any of the complexity that might have made the movie interesting, Paparazzi is an exercise in one-dimensionality. Smith’s idea of character development is drawing a line and placing the characters on the “good” side or the “bad” side. The good characters are those innocent, unappreciated Hollywood types, who all spend time with their families and would never hurt a fly on their way to the top. The bad characters smoke and drink.
Paparazzi squanders cameos by Vince Vaughn, Chris Rock and Gibson, who, suitably, is a patient of Bo’s anger therapist, perhaps because he’s suffering from a bit of self-created media trauma. The film avoids every opportunity to find a meatier story underneath its threadbare plot. Why not make it an indictment of the brainless celebrity-worship culture that feeds the paparazzi trade? Well…our screenwriter had to get back to football practice, and the director was needed back at the salon. And our producer had to make it to his anger-management class.
By: Troy Reimink
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