Now here is a nasty little piece. In and out of theaters faster than you can say “cheese,” Paparazzi is a surprisingly dark and brooding thriller.
Bo Laramie (Hauser) has just become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. With his film “Adrenaline Force,” he is now at the top of the Hollywood celeb-o-meter. He has a wife, Abby (Tunney), and a son, Zach (Blake Michael Bryan). They are still used to the quiet life of Montana and are having a hard time adjusting to Bo’s newfound stardom.
While at his son’s soccer game one Saturday, Bo spots a photographer shooting pictures of his son playing and he and his wife spectating. Bo approaches the photographer, who is Rex Harper (Sizemore), a sleazy, hulking man who has no shame. Bo politely asks him to stop taking pictures of his son, and Rex reluctantly agrees. Moments later he is back at it, and Bo ends up busting his chops with an uppercut. Unfortunately, the whole thing was captured on film by Rex’s sidekick goons, led by Wendell Stokes (Baldwin), and Rex ends up suing and collecting $500,000.
One night after a film premiere, Bo and his family are driving home only to be bombarded by paparazzi photographers. The result is a nasty car accident, which leaves Bo’s son in a coma. Bo tries to do the right thing by summoning help from Detective Burton (Farina), but, as expected, he’s going to have to take matters into his own hands to get things done.
Paparazzi begs to be compared to late 80’s/early 90’s Steven Seagal action fare, but there’s a big problem here: Paparazzi takes itself entirely too seriously. There are moments where the screenplay gives the viewer a few winks, but overall this film wants to be a dark, violent revenge film. Unfortunately, the film is far too outlandish to be taken remotely seriously.
I know that if I was to ever become a celebrity, I would not do well with paparazzi photographers. There’s something undeniably creepy about the thought of being photographed and not knowing it. Then there’s the annoyance of knowing you’re being photographed and not being able to do much about it. But do I feel sorry for multi-bizzilionaire celebrities who have to deal with it? Not really. It comes with the territory, and Paparazzi makes the crucial mistake of asking us to side with a pouty celebrity who, when the film is all said and done, is pretty immoral. That’s a tall order.
The performances are serviceable, but hardly great. Cole Hauser is straight-faced as Bo and even has a small resemblance to Mel Gibson, who was one of the producers on the film (and don’t think Gibson’s cameo in the film doesn’t mean anything!) He exudes a physical presence, but is hardly a dynamic actor. Robin Tunney spends most of the movie weeping and really isn’t given much to do. The always-dependable Dennis Farina turns up as Burton, but he is ordered by the screenplay to play one of the dumbest cops in recent memory. It is Tom Sizemore who steals every scene with his ridiculously over-the-top performance as grease ball Rex. He spits nearly every word of dialogue and appears to be the only one aware of how bizarre the story is.
Paul Abascal’s direction is competent, although the editing during the photo sessions in the film is downright dizzying. Forrest Smith’s screenplay keeps things chugging along, however preposterous it gets. Technically the film is well-made and really captures the beauty of the Hollywood area.
In the end it’s the story that sinks this ship. Simply put, the wrong angle was taken on the material and like so many other films, Paparazzi just takes itself too seriously and asks so much of us as a viewer. For many it will work as a mindless action film, but for those looking for a keen eye into the world of celebrities and paparazzi photographers, you’d best look elsewhere.
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Length: 84 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense violent sequences, sexual content and language.
Theatrical Release: September 3, 2004
Directed by: Paul Abascal
Written by: Forrest Smith
Cast: Cole Hauser, Robin Tunney, Dennis Farina, Daniel Baldwin, Tom Hollander, Kevin Gage