Paparazzi

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Starring Cole Hauser. Rated PG.

Action movies depend, to some extent, on deaths. The heroes are most often killers. Think of Martin Riggs or Ellen Ripley or the T-800 or Trinity. They all kicked major ass. The difference between their behaviour and villainy is purely motivation. Good guys have one. They're saving the day. The bad guys? Assholes who had it coming. Cowboys had Indians, war flicks had Nazis, now, thanks to Paparazzi, celebrities have...journalists.

Specifically, photojournalists, genus freelance, species tabloid.

An interesting story about Paparazzi is that it springs from the imagination of executive-producer Mel Gibson. It is a screed against the purported stereotype of the lowest of the low, the celebrity hound. This bottomlessly sleazy dirtmonger spends his days stalking poor celebrities, telephoto lens soiling the joy and sanctity of every private encounter, joy, or disaster. The movie argues that given the right set of unfortunate circumstances, such picture-snapping scum could be justifiably harmed. Or killed, and taunted beforehand. Yes, it's torture followed by extrajudicial execution, but fuck 'em!

Does Gibson hate photogs, giving us Paparazzi as a personal statement of animus? It's not implausible. Gibson developed the idea within his company, Icon, and made it with some new talent, like screenwriter Forrest Smith and director Paul Abascal. Gibson is a bona fide celebrity, of course. And he does know quite a bit about the cinema of violent revenge, having been Mad Max Rockatansky, Martin Riggs, the Patriot guy, and William Wallace. He's pretty much been the top cinematic fist of righteous vengeance for 25 years; our Clint Eastwood, our Charlie Bronson.

But so what if this is Gibson's arrogant revenge fantasy against some morons who earn a dirty dollar lensing his properties? This review isn't for Reporters Sans Frontií¨res. And I happen to sort of like revenge movies. They leave a cleansing feeling upon the brain, like the "Ten Minutes' Hate" in 1984. It feels good to vicariously torment and execute some worthless prick through the eyes of our hero. They're bad villains, and their deaths should be splattery and cathartic.

So, all fraternal sympathies with my distant colleagues in the gutter press aside, how is Paparazzi as a film? Surprisingly, it's quite decent. It's a short, constant-momentum type of B--action thriller. The bad guys are pretty bad, and the good guy is not completely unbelievable. Cole Hauser, son of Wings Hauser, plays Bo Laramie, absurdly named husband, dad, and rising marquee star. I find him anonymous-looking, with an Engelbert Humperdinck perm, but I suppose he gets the job done. His tormentor is lowlife photog Rex, played by Tom Sizemore. Typically seen as a cigar-chomping sergeant type, Sizemore is slimmer and more contemporary here. Tabloid readers would remember him as the allegedly abusive boyfriend of Heidi Fleiss. Sizemore is a real-life Bo Laramie, in many respects, and the casting mixes with the actor's (allegedly crank-fuelled) intensity to produce a rather fascinating screen villain who blows Hauser's tough-talking do-right mannequin into the next reel. He gets me so mad that I almost forget that he's supposed to be me.