September 4th, 2004
“Paparazzi” is the first film I have seen in a long time that hates its audience. A ridiculous, bottom-feeding, pornographically indulgent C-list thriller, the film will only appeal to the rich and famous and their trivial concerns about privacy. All others should stay far away from this stinker.
Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser, who is strong and silent, and unbearably miscast here) is a brand new action star of the silver screen drinking in his first taste of worldwide success. With fame comes the paparazzi (including Tom Sizemore and Daniel Baldwin), who viciously work around the clock to snap unfavorable photos of Bo and his family (a bored Robin Tunney and Blake Bryan). When these “photo journalists” go too far and crash into Bo’s car, leaving his family badly hurt, Bo decides to take the law into his own hands and begins to carefully exact revenge on the paparazzi that have been torturing him.
“Paparazzi” is a revenge story with only one goal: to extract sympathy for the life of a celebrity. It’s hard being anybody these days, but it seems to me that the pluses outweigh the minuses when it comes to A-list status, with “Paparazzi” taking the one drawback of this vocation (loss of privacy) to its absolute extreme.
The film was directed by Paul Abascal, a 20-year veteran of the industry. Mind you, he was a hair stylist, but 20 years is a long time for any job. Abascal has dabbled in television directing for some time, and “Paparazzi” has the feeling of a filmmaker who is trying to get away with TV tricks on the big screen, where those types of shortcuts are amplified to an annoying degree. “Paparazzi” is such a goofy, pointless C-list revenge flick (a “Walking Tall” of Rodeo Drive, if you will) to begin with that its complete lack of logic, atmosphere, or desire to appeal to more than a single community in California just makes the experience of watching the film mind-numbing. This really is fantastically awful film, with Abascal and his producer, Mel Gibson, cashing in favors left and right to lighten the mood (Chris Rock, Vince Vaughn, and Gibson himself all cameo), and editing the film down to a scant 80 minutes just so nobody is offended by such a deplorable idea for a movie. Leave it up to Hollywood to make a film about how hard it is to be rich and famous.
Matters only get worse for “Paparazzi” when Abascal and his screenwriter, Forrest Smith (who probably banged this elementary school script out on cocktail napkins), try to realize the celebrity world of photographers. The paparazzi in the film are depicted as unshaven beast men, former rapists and general criminals, handy at Photoshop, and orgasmic at the thought of burying a celebrity alive in their lies. The photographers are animals, which is literally the way actor Tom Sizemore plays the role. Always an uncontrollable performer, Sizemore finally scrapes the bottom of the barrel here. It looks like either Sizemore actually believes he’s reaching hysterical Shakespearean heights with his spittle-drenched dialog, or he’s going way over the top in an effort to entertain himself. It’s hard to tell, and Abascal isn’t a strong enough director to tell him no. It’s a God-awful performance.
Abascal furthers his house of pain by giving the audience a detective character (played by Dennis Farina) that makes Clouseau look like Stephen Hawking, a screenplay cheat that conveniently removes Laramie’s kid from the violent equation for the duration of the film, and a sequence that is tastelessly staged as a direct homage to the Princess Diana murder of 1997. What a grotesque idea. And I loved how all the photographers work for a magazine called “Paparazzi.” Ooooh, subtle. I’m not sure what held the filmmakers back from calling the mag, “Camera Holdin'/Baby Eatin’ Bastards.” There are also some direct jabs at the audience for purchasing tabloids and taking an interest in the off-camera world of celebrities. So, we are to blame for the inability of a star to understand the job he (or she) has willingly accepted? Yeah, sure. It’s rare to attend a movie that I’ve paid to see insult me directly (that didn’t star Paul Walker).
To be fair, I’m sure most of the paparazzi events depicted here have some element of truth to them, and “Paparazzi” would’ve been a whole lot more interesting had the filmmakers not decide to go all Looney Tunes with the central idea. I’m sure the film will play like gangbusters with the Malibu crowd, and that George Clooney and Alec Baldwin will sing its praises. However, outside of the celebrity bubble, there’s not a single reason for anybody else to see this bottom-feeding film.
My rating: F