Paparazzi (2004) / Thriller

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language (I'd rate it R)
Running Time: 85 min.

Cast: Cole Hauser, Tom Sizemore, Dennis Farina, Robin Tunney, Daniel Baldwin, Tom Hollander, Kevin Gage, Blake Michael Bryan, Andrea Baker, Chris Rock, Vince Vaughn, Matthew McConaughey, Mel Gibson
Director: Paul Abascal

Screenplay: Forrest Smith
Review published September 7, 2004

Paparazzi is a revenge fantasy by movie stars for movie stars, and holds little appeal for anyone else.  It basically sends a message that the leech-like photographers that shadow the rich and famous wherever they go are the scum of the earth, and deserve whatever malignancy that may befall them in the course of their occupations.  While it may be true that press photographers frequently cross the line of decency to get shots to be used for false articles, Paparazzi takes this to the extreme, where the crew of photographers are nothing but a gang of thugs with criminal records that will rape and murder people in order to get their way.  It's downright laughable to see how far first-time screenwriter Forrest Smith's script goes with the subject matter, as we in the audience only lose sympathy with the would-be protagonist who ends up taking the law into his own hands in the most violent of ways.

Cole Hauser (Pitch Black, Tears of the Sun) plays a brand new action superstar in Hollywood, Bo Laramie, and the introduction to fame comes quickly in his face at every turn.  Everywhere he goes, there's the blinding sight of flashbulbs, and while he knows this is par for the course for celebrities, he draws the line at letting the photographers take pictures of his wife and child. At first he tries the polite approach, but to no avail.  He gets physical, and is forced to take anger management counseling as a result, but the wily paparazzi still refuse to back down, running rampant wherever he goes.  The final straw comes when the photographers indirectly cause an accident which sees Laramie's family hospitalized, and for this Western hombre, a man protects his family to the death.

Paparazzi has a few things going for it, including an interesting premise for a new type of thriller we haven't really seen to this extent before.  The cast is second tier in terms of popularity, but they are solid, with Hauser impressing in his first big starring role in a Hollywood production.  Tom Sizemore (Swindle, Red Planet) is also equally terrific as the film's main heavy, although his role in the film has been downplayed to some extent due to his recent legal troubles.  There are a number of unbilled cameo appearances, which are interesting at first, but inconsequential in the end.  Lastly, longtime associate (and hairdresser) of producer Mel Gibson's, Paul Abascal, does some pretty good work in the directorial department, even though the story can't support the heavy-handedness of the tone.

Perhaps if Paparazzi could have been a little more tongue-in-cheek in its delivery, the subject matter could have delivered another good Hollywood insider's thriller, not too dissimilar to the great Robert Altman flick, The Player.  Alas, that probably is too much to hope for without a real vision, and this one stays a ludicrous suspenser from beginning to end.  In an ironic twist, Paparazzi was whisked into theaters without any fanfare or screenings for critics, eschewing the press and photographers altogether, and as a result, failed at the box office.  Not that they gave anyone anything to get excited about anyway -- they probably wish anyone cared enough to write an article about their endeavors and snap a few photos, but instead, they created something for us all to shrug indifferently to.

Qwipster's rating:

2004 Vince Leo