Casper Van Dien, Robin Tunney, Daniel Baldwin, Kevin Gage
20th Century Fox
Truly. I had low expectations for "Paparazzi," but found myself consistently engaged in the film and involved with the characters even when the film's core messages didn't quite resonate with me.
"Paparazzi" was produced by Mel Gibson's Icon Productions, the same outfit that brought us "Passion of the Christ." This film, in some ways, was trying to crucify the paparazzi while painting a saintlike image of the celebrities who experience them. It's that message that didn't quite resonate with me, and yet the script, by Forrest Smith, contains a few smart choices.
First, we have a relatively "new" celebrity here...we have a man in an action film from Montana who is married and has a child...we have it played out not just from a paparazzi angle, but from the angle of one bad encounter leading to a vengeful paparazzi...and then a vengeful actor. So, the storyline contains more than just "poor celebrity". While it doesn't negate the impact of the celebrity angle, it does soften the blow.
Cole Hauser does a nice job as the celebrity in question, and Robin Tunney turns in a good appearance as his wife. Hauser, who I've never really seen actually act almost reminded me of a Charles Bronson in "Death Wish." He has a gruff exterior...gets wronged...and works to get even. It's an unexpectedly solid performance. Tunney, in a less developed role still intrigues and does what she can here.
I will confess that I was troubled by the role of Tom Sizemore as the primary paparazzi out to destroy Hauser. Sizemore, who happens to be fairly known for his own domestic violence issues in real life, is effective here but almost seemed a bit restrained. If I were him, I'm not sure this is the kind of role I'd have taken.
In other supporting roles, Dennis Farina does an extremely good job as a sympathetic detective along with other paparazzi including Daniel Baldwin, Tom Hollander and Kevin Gage.
There were problems here...and they nearly dropped this film into the "C" range for me. First, with the exception of one celebrity cameo, the bit part/cameos here seemed out of place. First, the one that worked...Vince Vaughn...the ones that didn't work? Mel Gibson, Matthew McConaughey and Chris Rock as a pizza delivery guy. Was this really necessary?
Secondly, car wreck scenes involving Hauser's family were far too similar to the Princess Diana scene. I already understood what the film was about, and did not need to be hit over the head with "Paparazzi evil." It was a bit too much.
Finally, the ending...Dare I say it was a bit too smooth? If anyone ever wondered if celebrities get preferential treatment this film would seem to validate that idea. Did I feel for Hauser's character? Of course...but, by the end of this film he's far from innocent yet he's treated with kid gloves. He simply wasn't THAT innocent.
Yet, surprisingly...I liked this film. I enjoyed the storyline, dialogue, acting and scenes. Admittedly, it's a lower budget film and feels that way...but, for this kind of a movie that works quite nicely. Will this win any awards? Probably not. However, it is a decent rental with surprisingly competent performances and a decent bit of action. The dialogue, storyline and performance of Robin Tunney all combine to push this film up to a low "B" for me.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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Richard Propes, The Independent Critic