Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
I’ve long suspected that Mel Gibson has a bit of a martyr complex, and this year, he seems hellbent on proving it once and for all. Between the God-and-gorefest that is THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST and this thinly-disguised-“Oh-man-I-wish-I-could” revenge flick, he’s trotted out his personal pathology in a surprisingly public way. Leave it to Foywonder to give this film the in-depth analysis it so richly deserves...
If only PAPARAZZI featured a scene involving a dog with shifty eyes then I swear to God I'd be convinced this movie was actually one of the ideas Homer pitched to Mel Gibson in that episode of The Simpsons. For Mel Gibson to go from making THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST to producing this... All I can say is "Wow!"
Cole Hauser plays Bo Laramie and how often is it that the name of a fictional movie character sounds less like a fictional movie character name than that of the real life actor playing him, especially when that real life actor’s name is Cole Hauser? Bo Laramie is Hollywood’s newest action movie superhunk thanks to his breakthrough blockbuster ADRENALINE FORCE and its upcoming sequel ADRENALINE FORCE 2: THE FORCENING. Like most Hollywood celebrities that have just hit it big, Bo Laramie is a humble, down to earth, devoted family man, and loving husband that doesn't cheat on his wife, always has time for his kid's little league soccer game, never hangs out with Hollywood big shots, or goes club-hopping into the wee hours of the morning. I have a hard time buying into this notion if for no other reason than the guy’s name is Bo Laramie. That’s a name that just screams hard drinkin’ and all-night carousing. That’s a trucker’s name by God. That’s the name of the guy in the pool hall at 3 AM finishing off his third pack of cigarettes for the evening. Family man, my ass!
Unfortunately, fame comes with a high price, none higher than the loss of one's privacy. Out of the shadows of darkness steps the evil Rex Harper, the celebrity photographer from hell. Seriously. I'm not exaggerating. This guy is Satan's shutterbug. He is Lucifer with a zoom lens. There is no room for subtlety in this movie and Rex Harper is portrayed as a demonic entity that gets off on making the lives of the rich and famous a living nightmare by secretly taking photos of them when they least suspect it and then making up headlines to go along with it. Tom Sizemore plays Rex Harper as a sleazebag who looks and acts like someone who has been on a weeklong cocaine binge. Considering some of the recent headlines concerning Mr. Sizemore he may not have been acting. He may very well have just shown up the way he did and so they just skipped wardrobe and sent him straight to the set.
One day, “Mr. Decency” Bo Laramie is on his way to his son's little league soccer game when he's shown a tabloid magazine called “Paparazzi” that has a naked picture of him with a black bar over his genital region on the cover accompanied by a headline that reads "GET SHORTY". Needless to say he's now in a really bad mood, especially when it comes to celebrity photojournalists. Then at his kid's soccer game he spots the dark prince of tabloid journalism snapping pics of his son. An angry Bo gets in Harper's face and orders him to stop photographing his kid. Harper, the conniving scumbag that he is, begs off and promises to stop but as the game comes to an end Bo once again spots this pimple on the ass of humanity taking pictures of his son. So naturally Bo goes into full-on Alec Baldwin mode and decks him one real good. But it was all a trap! Oh no! Oh yes! The diabolical photog had intentionally provoked the rising star so that his gaggle of fellow life-destroying picture-snapping jackals could catch this celebrity’s shocking outburst on film.
Shortly thereafter, “World Famous Everyman” Bo Laramie finds himself sentenced to anger management classes and forced to pay that bastard Rex Harper a whopping half million dollars. But for Rex Harper it’s not just about the money. No, he wants a public apology. He wants to see the honest man he conned forced to genuflect before him in public by saying, “I’m sorry.” But Bo Laramie, much like the current President, isn’t the kind of man that apologizes in public for his mistakes. In fact, he sits down with the E! Network and makes it perfectly clear that this photographer he punched out got what he deserved and he damn sure isn’t sorry it. Big mistake. Bo should have said “I’m sorry” because now Rex Harper is going to make him sorry. "I'm going to destroy your life and eat your soul,” declares the diabolical Rex Harper in a manner usually followed by the twirling of a mustache. Now it’s war and the gossip nazi once again enlists his flashbulb poppin' Gestapo to help destroy the life and career of the good and righteous Bo Laramie all because he refused to say those two little magic words - "I'm sorry."
Going back to the E! Network interview scene for a moment, this Guiliana chick from E! really has no business ever appearing in a movie again. She seems to suffer from the Hulk Hogan acting gene and by that I mean she can’t even convincingly play herself on-screen. When you only have two lines of dialogue in a movie that require you to do nothing more than say the kind of stuff you normally would in your regular line of work and your line delivery is so stilted and awful that it manages to stand out like a sore thumb even in a cheesy b-movie like this then you really, really, really need to stick to your day job.
But getting back to the plot, things quickly devolve for Bo thanks to Harper’s harpies. You got a Beverly Hills Hell’s Angel on a Harley constantly snapping photos out of context so that they could be spun into something damning. You have an obnoxious Australian pipsqueak that likes to tap into people’s cellular phone calls. In a bit of stunt casting, a member of the Baldwin clan, Daniel Baldwin to be exact, looking like he’s been hiding out in a cabin deep in the woods for several months after eating his other brothers, plays another sleazy photographer that isn’t above using Photoshop to make his photos into being something even more sensationalistic. Together these four are the Audio/Video Club of Doom! I swear the Nazis in SCHINDLER’S LIST were played with more subtlety than these guys.
In their most vile act of all, they perform a sort of automotive gangbang down the typically deserted streets of Los Angeles chasing and surrounding Bo and his family while blasting away at them with blinding flashbulbs inadvertently causing a horrible traffic accident to which they react by taking pictures of them in the wreckage. Any similarities between this scene and the death of Princess Diana is purely intentional.
The driver of the other vehicle was killed but nobody gives a shit about him because he wasn’t famous or related to someone who was. It’s all about Bo and his family. Bo escapes unscathed but his wife has to have her spleen removed - the spleen being the go-to bodily organ that screenwriters have removed when they need to convey that a character has suffered a serious injury but don’t want to deal with the ramifications of losing an organ that could seriously impact the character’s long term health – and worst of all his only begotten son is in a coma. The police are unable to press charges because there were no witnesses and its his word against there’s.
But a fateful encounter with the bikerazzi changes everything. I don’t know about you but if I’ve just had an accident that leaves me hanging over the side of a mountain and the guy whose life I’ve been screwing with is willing to pull me to safety I don’t think I’d hang there taunting the man further about how I was going to use this to ruin his life even more so. Needless to say, Bo comes to realize that killing his enemies is a very effective way of making his problems disappear.
From there the film kind of plays out like that speech Sean Connery gave to Kevin Costner in THE UNTOUCHABLES. They put his family in the hospital and he lets one of them fall off a cliff. They fabricate false rumors in the tabloids about his wife being a drug addict and he sets one of them up to get gunned down by the L.A.P.D. They break into his house and plant hidden cameras and he brutally beats one of them to death with a Louisville Slugger. You know in retrospect Bo’s response may have been a tad extreme. Look at what he’s doing just for putting two members of his family in the hospital. Can you imagine what he would have done if either of them had been killed in the crash?
And if you haven't figured out halfway through this flick that Bo is going to frame Harper for the deaths and that the police will completely buy into this despite the logic behind it not making a lick of sense then you clearly haven't seen enough bad thrillers in your lifetime. It is amazing how a movie can be both totally predictable and yet still be so hopped up on goofballs that its giddily entertaining.
People always ask me why I waste time watching so many bad movies. I always tell them its because I'm looking for that most elusive of films - the "so bad it's good" movie. So far this summer I’ve come up empty. Sure, I've seen a movie that told me that man can outrun the temperature. I've seen a movie that presented the children of Dracula as looking like a hybrid of Shrek and Dingbat from the old 1960's Batman cartoon. I've seen a superhero movie with a plot based around face cream. I've seen a movie where black men were supposed to pass themselves off as white women but while wearing make-up that couldn't even enable them to pass themselves off as human beings. I've seen a movie about giant man-eating snakes that barely features any giant man-eating snakes in it. None delivered what I was looking for. But now I can say I’ve a movie where a major movie star orders a pizza that gets delivered by Chris Rock of all people just so he can covertly slip into the trunk of the deliveryman’s car in order to slip past the police watching his house so that he can get to the Mustang he keeps parked off the side of the road in the woods under a tarp, which he then drives to go beat a man to death. This is what I’m looking for, folks. This is why I sit through so many of these bad movies.
If I had any complaints about the movie, the first would be that there are way too many celebrity cameos in it. It gets annoying and distracting. Like I said, Chris Rock shows up as a pizza deliveryman for no particular reason other than to do a few really tired jokes about how the L.A.P.D. treat black people. Vince Vaughn turns up in one scene to do some shtick about penis enlargement. Matthew McConaughey briefly appears as himself just because. Heck, even Mel Gibson himself does a brief cameo as a psychiatrist’s patient. Okay, that one was actually amusing but for all the wrong reasons.
And poor Robin Tunney is given zero to do with her role in this movie other than to play either the doting wife or the upset wife depending on the scene. Still, I’m sure this beats appearing in SUPERNOVA or VERTICAL LIMIT.
Another problem is that Dennis Farina shows up way too many times as a police detective with such an keen sense of observation that he can deduce that someone was being set up just by noticing that a jacket in a video gets turned around the wrong way yet this same brilliant detective doesn't remember until the film's finale that those traffic cameras in L.A. that snap photos of people running red lights would have taken photographic evidence of the paparazzi causing Bo's traffic accident. But of course if he had remembered this back in the first act there wouldn't have been a movie because all the paparazzi would have gone directly to jail instead of being hunted down by the revenge-minded movie star. This guy is never going to make it on Law & Order if it takes him this long to figure out the simple things.
Farina knows that Bo is behind these deaths somehow and his body language when questioning him makes it so obvious that there’s no way Bo couldn’t possibly know that this detective isn’t onto him. But Bo reacts and responds in such a nonchalant manner that I couldn’t help but to begin to wonder if the guy wasn’t a bigger sociopath than the people he’s offing. It’s a little hard to root for Bo Laramie, especially at the end when he’s practically taunting Harper about what a great job he’s done setting him up and regrets the fact that he’ll never be able to brag about it in public. I can’t quite put my finger on it but as the movie progressed the Bo Laramie character started coming across to me as being more of a smug little punk in need of a comeuppance than a wronged man seeking vengeance. Maybe Harper was right after all? I don’t know. I just know that this factor only made things even more ludicrous.
And right on cue, the son comes out of his coma just in time for the end credits and they all live rich and famous and happily ever after. Praise Jesus!
PAPARAZZI marks the big screen debut of former hairstylist to the stars turned director Paul Abascal, whose previous directorial credits include episodes of the TV shows Silk Stalkings, Nash Bridges, Night Man, and America’s Most Wanted. This would probably explain why during every moment of the movie I felt like I was watching something that had been made for the USA Network or Superstation TBS. But the hair was damn good in this movie! As you can see it is good to be close friends with Mel Gibson, especially after he gets together with some celebrity buddies to trade stories about run-ins with overzealous paparazzi and deciding this could be the making of a great revenge thriller. PAPARAZZI marks a Hollywood first - a Hollywood revenge thriller whose target audience is Hollywood itself.
One last beef I had with the movie was the title PAPARAZZI. It just sounds too generic for a movie as cheesy and sensationalistic as this. It needed something flashier with a bit more hyperbole to it.
ZOOM LENS TO HELL
FLASHBULBS OF TERROR
It just needed a title more along those lines.
PAPARAZZI may be more predictable than a Julia Roberts romantic comedy and dumber than an Ernest movie but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it more entertaining than 95% of the movies that came out this past summer. Oh, if only this movie had been made about a decade or so ago and starred and younger, thinner Steven Seagal or Jean Claude Van Damme then it quite possibly could have been single greatest motion picture in the history of cinema. But instead it will have to settle for being the funniest movie of the year even if the laughs weren't intentional. If you can appreciate a movie like this then you are going to love Mel Gibson’s cinematic “Fuck you!” to the celebrity press.
Thanks, man. Great read as always.