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Dr. Kelley: The point is, you're carrying belief systems from a previous life that don't fit your new reality. Some of your old values might not be valuable anymore. Not here, not now.
DVD ReviewIt's absolutely strange to think that Mel Gibson produced Paparazzi in the same year that he released his masterpiece, The Passion of the Christ. Could they be any more opposite? The Passion is a phenomenally brilliant, powerful, and spiritual film. Paparazzi, on the other hand, is utter garbage, morally offensive, and unbelievably stupid. It actually makes the standard Bruckheimer-Bay fare look kind of brilliant; but, God help me, I still found myself liking it.
The story, and I use that term loosely, centers on Hollywood's newest action star, Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser). He's just achieved an overnight success with his movie, "Adrenaline Force", after spending years working and living a quiet life in Montana. Now he's famous and handsome, which makes him the ultimate target for the paparazzi. Everybody knows that the paparazzi are scummy by profession, but it's tough to imagine that they're as despicable as the entourage portrayed here. Then again, this is the same profession that jumped at the opportunity to photograph Princess Diana's car crash.
Rex Harper (Tom Sizemore, who in real life has certainly given the tabloids plenty of material) leads his crew on a mission to dismantle Bo. They snatch photographs of the Laramies swimming naked in their pool, including their little son, Zach (Blake Ryan)—something that, to me, raises some alarming questions about the Laramie family. Despite being irritated with having his own photo taken, Bo is willing to accept it. However, he won't tolerate having his son and wife, Abby (Robin Tunney), photographed. Acting more like Sean Penn than an action star, Bo punches Rex, which leads to a bitter rivalry between the two of them. Don't expect any character motivations to be developed. There's not one reason why Rex has such a grudge against Bo. That's probably for the best, because it's easier for the audience to tolerate what happens in the rest of the movie.
After Rex and his cronies cause a horrible car accident in which Bo's son goes into a coma and his wife is injured, Bo starts to take revenge. Initially, it's not intentional. He only accidentally causes one paparazzo to crash and fall off of a cliff. Okay, I can deal with that. Bo's not a murderer, just an unlucky guy who leaves the scene of an accident. Things get worse, though, when he starts conceiving elaborate and improbable scenarios to set up the deaths of the other paparazzi. Truly speaking, Forrest Smith's script and the direction, by Paul Abascal, are endorsing murder. I guess a nice way of putting it would be to say that the movie is merely entertaining us with vigilante justice; but, come on, how is it just to kill someone for being a sleaze that sneaks onto your property in order to snap a photo?
Compounding the fact that the movie amounts to nothing more than a "revenge fest" is that it isn't original in any respect. The style used by director Abascal and his crew is virtually identical to a Bruckheimer movie (though with far less flashy editing), including that strange yellow tint that seems to permeate every summer blockbuster these days. However, the movie rightly chooses to plunge straight into the action and keep things moving just fast enough to prevent the audience from focusing too much on the plot holes. It's nice to see that the filmmakers aren't taking themselves seriously with this project. That's why it is enjoyable despite the incredibly predictable script.
It's even enjoyable despite the bland acting. Tom Sizemore and Daniel Baldwin seem to be playing cartoons, not real people (remember, that's a good thing, because it's okay for Bo to kill them if they aren't three-dimensional). The only flattering comment that can be made about Robin Tunney's turn is how attractive she looks. And even though Cole Hauser is acting the part of a new major Hollywood star, it's tough to imagine that he'll become one. He has next to no screen presence, especially in scenes with Dennis Farina (who plays a cop in a bizarre subplot that seems to be going in two directions at the same time). Perhaps the fact that the acting is so one-note is helpful to the thin script (it probably couldn't support the weight of actual performances), but all I can say is that there's something wrong when the most memorable performances come from the cameos by Vince Vaughn, Chris Rock, and Mel Gibson.
Yet, I forgive Paparazzi all of these transgressions (maybe it's because it feels like a 1980s action movie). Part of me does have a hard time reconciling its rather immoral stance on violence. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it isn't truly that much different than any other action picture. The simple fact is that Paparazzi isn't making any bones about what it is. Does it endorse violence as a way to solve your problems? Yes, but so do Death Wish, The Rundown, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and a boatload of other movies. It's vile trash that many people will not like. I understand this and doubt that I would ever recommend the movie to anyone. However, I rather enjoyed it and, who knows, maybe on a rainy day with nothing else to do, I'll watch it again.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C
Image Transfer Review: This edition of Paparazzi crams two versions of the movie onto two sides of the same disc. Side 1 features a single layer, pan-and-scan transfer for those who are interested. The second side contains an anamorphic single layer transfer of the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The fact that the feature is so short makes the non-RSDL transfer negligible and thus the result is a very nice transfer. Blacks are solid, color is strong, detail is good, skin tones are accurate, and there's nary a flaw to be seen. To some extent, the image lacks any significant depth, which is about the only thing wrong here.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Accompanying the fine image is a good Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. There's plenty of sound separation and directionality during the action scenes and the sound effect of the cameras taking photographs come across nicely without not being distracting. Dialogue is well balanced at all times, making for an easy listen. There are also French and Spanish Dolby Stereo mixes.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Paul Abascal
The supplemental material relating to Paparazzi can be found on both sides of the disc. Side one contains the featurette The Stunts of Paparazzi (08m:49s), which takes a detailed look at two of the larger stunt pieces in the movie. There's an annoyingly gimmicky editing throughout, but it's nice to see a tribute to the stuntmen who make these movies possible. There's also a feature-length commentary with director Paul Abascal, which can be viewed while watching either the pan-and-scan or widescreen version of the movie. Abascal admits off the bat that it's his first commentary and it shows. There are plenty of moments of silence and he sometimes falls victim to simply narrating the images. However, I was surprised to learn that the shooting budget was only $7 million, which is hard to believe when looking at the stuff on screen. It's not a great track, but there are some occasional insights that merit a listen.
Following that on Side 2 are three deleted scenes that can be played either separately or together with a total running time of 2m:16s. They're presented in nonanamorphic widescreen and really don't add much to the movie, so were wisely cut. Perhaps the second scene should have stayed, since it has what might be construed as character development—then again, maybe it doesn't belong in this movie. There is also an optional commentary on all three scenes by Abascal, where he describes why he cut the scenes.
The Making-of Featurette (04m:12s) contains interviews with the principle cast, Abascal, and Gibson. It's clearly just a promotional piece tacked onto the DVD, so don't expect any details about the production. The final feature is the theatrical trailer, presented in nonanamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen. It isn't a great collection of extras, but, like the movie, they should play pretty well as long as you don't think too hard.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsVulgar and mindless, Paparazzi is everything some love about Hollywood and everything that others hate. There's room for debate over the merits of the movie, but the image transfer and sound mix here are solid by any standards. The extras are slightly uninspired, but compliment the movie nicely.
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