Produced by Mel Gibson and directed by his hair stylist, Paul Abascal, “Paparazzi” is a valueless, hateful and sadistic disgrace. Last year Gibson killed Christ in “The Passion,” now he brings us a new snuff film that delights in violating the sixth commandment.
Cole Hauser stars as Bo Laramie, a newly minted action star who is the latest toast of Hollywood. Montana-born and married, Bo has strangely never seen press photographers before, but no matter: With his beautiful wife (Robin Tunney) and cute-as-a-button son (Blake Bryan) by his side in their Malibu home, he is enjoying the sweet life. All-too-quickly though, the real world intrudes in the form of paparazzi who he catches taking pictures of his son and wife. Bo punches one but when that doesn’t seem to work, he moves on to more drastic measures.
These measures take the form of a deplorable crusade that is caused when the Laramie family is forced into a car accident by flashbulb-wielding paparazzi that injures Bo’s wife and puts his angelic son into a coma. After the police fail to immediately arrest the perpetrators, Bo takes the law into his own murderous hands. Basically, the whole cheesy story can be found in the preview for the film, and I wouldn’t recommend seeing that, either.
In addition to a bad script, the film boasts a complete lack of morality. Killing all four of his paparazzi demons, Bo gets off scot-free with the bonus of police sanction in the form of Detective Burton (Dennis Farina). A blatant rip-off of the Peter Falk character Detective Columbo in all but ethics, Burton “understands” Laramie’s murderous attempt to protect his son and shows his sick sympathy by not arresting him.
Although Gibson and Abascal try, the villains just aren’t despicably real enough to justify exterminating. Led by the eyebrow-raises and mouth-twists of Tom Sizemore, the photographers are rapists, thieves and drug smugglers who will “eat your soul” just to make a buck. Wifeless and friendless, apparently they are just begging to be picked off. In one particularly wonderful scene, faced with the car accident that they caused, these non-humans go for their cameras and snap photo after photo of Laramie’s bleeding wife and son. Shockingly, they actually call the cops afterward. But the medicine that Abascal prescribes for these Snidely Whiplashes with such glee is disturbed to say the least. Watching Bo approach one of the paparazzi with a baseball bat to bludgeon him to death (at the last second, the camera pans away to keep the ridiculous PG-13 rating intact), is harrowing. And sanctioning a solution like that is just plain wrong.
This is not a film made for the American public, but a temper tantrum by and for spoiled stars. Abascal casts the tabloids as baseless liars when, in fact, readers get more truth from the National Enquirer than “Paparazzi” ever doles out. Ironically, most unbelievable of all is Mr. Gibson’s cameo, in which he is waiting to see an anger-management therapist. The film could be called shameless propaganda if it weren’t so obvious as to be entirely unconvincing.
We live in a voyeuristic society that takes pleasure out of knowing what celebrities are up to, feeling connected to their pain and taking pleasure from their mishaps. If Gibson had made Abascal evenhandedly examine the forces behind this fascination, he may have had a movie. Instead he shows himself to be a spoiled star, strikingly similar to his alter ego on “South Park.” Three times during “Paparazzi,” the skyline of Hollywood is shown in exact imitation of the Miramax logo, but the magic number of “Beetlejuice” won’t change the fate of this Fox dud. It will be easy to put this one out of its misery.