It’s Time to Settle the Score.
Mel Gibson produced this mostly-bland and generic action flick, and our movie star hero Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser) is obviously a young stand-in acting out Gibson’s revenge fantasy. Relentlessly pursued by the paparazzi, Laramie is involved in a car accident that leaves his wife injured and his young son comatose—events with a distinct echo of Princess Diana in 1997. Channeling his inner action star, he sets out for vengeance against the photographers who have invaded his privacy and threatened to destroy his family.
Former soap opera actor Forry Smith scripted this mess, while directing duties went to former Hollywood hairstylist Paul Abascal. Abascal was responsible for Mel Gibson’s coiffure on the first three LETHAL WEAPON films, going to show that it’s not just who you know, but whose scalp you massage on a semi-regular basis.
Laramie is intended to be our hero here—not our antihero, mind you, but our actual hero—but that completely disregards the fact that he’s an unhinged lunatic. That’s not supposed to matter, though, because the paparazzi (Tom Sizemore, Daniel Baldwin, Tom Hollander, and Kevin Gage) are painted in the sleaziest and most unflattering light imaginable. This may not be the most honorable profession, but portraying them all as rapists, abusers, thugs, and thieves feels gross, like an attempt at conditioning us to merely accept it the next time a celebrity punches the man behind the camera. In that sense, this is less an escapist adventure and more like propaganda.
PAPARAZZI has its roots in the hard-R exploitation and revenge films of the 1970s, like DIRTY HARRY (1971) and DEATH WISH (1974). Had it actually embraced this heritage, it may have been an entertaining film. Instead, it pulls its punches and is watered down by the mainstream in order to get that PG-13 rating and appeal to a mass audience. It didn’t work, and they stayed away in droves. It plays out like a network television edit of a more brutal film, except this is the real film. Had they gone for the jugular and had the backbone to actually play for high stakes, it may have at least had a chance to achieve some modicum of cult status somewhere down the road. As it stands, it’s forgettable as a film and memorable only for its manipulations.
But I guess at least it’s memorable for something.