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Paris (Ramin Niami, 2003)


    Presumably the makers of Paris, a lousy neo-noir thriller that will most likely fade into obscurity, were attempting to fuse a sense of social concern with an exciting cop drama. Unfortunately, they’ve failed on both counts, resulting in a clumsy film that underwhelms on nearly every level. Surely one of the primary failings of the film is its photography, which suffers greatly from the decision to shoot digitally. Though the images are okay looking as far as DV goes, they convey absolutely no sense of atmosphere. Film noir without adequate mood is dreary stuff (or perhaps stuff that’s not dreary enough), and Paris stands as a testament to that and a warning to future filmmakers who want to attempt shooting their ambient thrillers cheaply.


    If the script were stronger, it might make up for the technical deficiencies, but Paris’ screenplay is a rather hopeless bundle of clichés. Following generic LAPD detective Jason Bartok (Chad Allen) as he treks down “Linda” (Bai Ling), a mysterious Asian girl, at his partner’s urging, the movie presents a lame series of clues and cornball situations with next to no dramatic excitement. The lone highlight in the film occurs when Karen Black drops by for a cameo as the Madame of a bordello. The horrible characterization doesn’t help matters much. Bartok seems to exist in a vacuum. We get a glimpse of his blandly designed apartment and find out that he grew up in San Diego, but beyond that he has no life, no friends, and no interests. He completely lacks any dimensions that might endear him to the audience and Chad Allen’s vapid screen presence doesn’t fill in any gaps. He seems way too dumb to have either sex appeal or street smarts. He looks more like a lost member of N’Sync than a tortured police detective. Stupidly, he gets involved with “Linda” after she holds him at gunpoint, but before he has any inkling why. Worst of all, her tortured past as an exploited prostitute is too much in focus for his seduction of her to feel morally okay. A movie with smarts might have made this emotional conflict its focus, but Paris attempts to skirt the issue entirely with soft focus and good lighting during the lovemaking scenes. I saw Paris as part of the Tribeca Film Festival, but it would seem more appropriate as a selection on that yearlong festival of films that they call Cinemax. Stephen Frears’ Dirty Pretty Things, which is also playing in the festival, is by no means a great film, but it combines this movie’s thriller plot and concern for immigrant workers with infinitely more aplomb.



Jeremy Heilman