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Movies | There is a good movie in the concept, but this film isn't it

Issue: "Education: Sick schools," Sept. 18, 2004

Paparazzi is "B" grade material that probably made it to theaters for two reasons: the film is directed and acted with a little more flair than its direct-to-video siblings and Mel Gibson's name is attached. Mr. Gibson acts as producer on this Icon (the star's production company) project.

There is a good movie in the concept, but Paparazzi (rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences, sexual content, and language) isn't it. Cole Hauser plays Bo Laramie, a rising Hollywood action star who moves to Los Angeles with his wife and young son-and immediately falls prey to ever-present paparazzi.

Navigating through the uneasy relationship between celebrities dependent on constant media exposure and photographers who believe that this gives them nearly unlimited license to "get the shot" could make for compelling drama. But those intricacies are not really of concern to Paparazzi. The film's celebrity hounds are not just slime; they're psychos with a complete disregard for human life.

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Bo clashes with a collective of four such paparazzi at one of his son's soccer games. The thuggish shutterbugs, led by a gleefully over-the-top Tom Sizemore, decide to up the ante. Their next encounter with the Laramie family leads to an accident that seriously injures Bo's wife and puts his son into a coma.

The accident is tragic. We feel Bo's rage as the paparazzi remain free while his son lies in a hospital bed. But first-time feature director Paul Abascal wants his audience also to root for Bo as he goes on a homicidal rampage to exact his own revenge on the photographers.

At several points, one begins to hope that the film will offer something more edifying. Bo executes his acts of vengeance under the nose of a police detective played by Dennis Farina, whose suspicions suggest that Bo's blind desire for revenge will have consequences.

Uh-uh. This is a revenge fantasy. This is about feeling wronged, grievously wronged, and getting the ultimate satisfaction from exacting the ultimate penalty. No pretense here-Bo commits murder, gets away with his crimes, and is the happier for it.

Not quite the follow-up to The Passion of the Christ that many were probably hoping for from Icon.


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