After so many action flicks made for that straight-to-streaming, late-night crowd, it is hard to figure out how many more are needed. Paradise City has neither artistic nor entertainment purposes in mind. What it does have is a pairing of Bruce Willis and John Travolta, their first pairing together since Pulp Fiction. It is not exactly Robert De Niro and Al Pacino trading blows with one another, face-to-face for the first time in Heat. Willis and Travolta’s return to action together feels more akin to Righteous Kill, that thankfully forgotten action disaster that saw De Niro and Pacino share the screen once more. Lower budget bits and pieces are where legacy artists like Travolta can thrive and continue their work, but it is hard to disengage their highs with the seeming lows of these features.
Really, the only amount of interest to have in Paradise City is to find whether the budget could stretch far enough to include the Guns ‘n’ Roses track. The answer is unsurprising. Whether the beautiful landscape is doing the heavy lifting for this Chuck Russell-directed piece is difficult to determine. Nothing looks all that great and much of the coastal region, the Hawaii-set action flick which uses some smart cuts to trick audiences into thinking Willis is actually on set is almost part of the charm now. When the man himself does appear it is in those quiet and sombre action shots, the camera pointing up at a hero of the genre. Even then, Paradise City gives the man himself more than a few moments of action
Beyond that though, Russell, whose time behind the camera for The Mask and Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, is diminished. It is not the director that fails to leave a mark then but the genre itself. If Paradise City and its likes can turn the work of a once viable hand behind the camera into the same slop and sleek muck that drives the core of many of these action features then the trouble is with the turnover and not those tied to the project. Paradise City is a clear and obvious example of that. Travolta and Stephen Dorff are some major names to draw alongside Willis and it gives Paradise City the same chance White Elephant had. Pack the cast full of big names and recognisable faces and even the worst of scripts become somewhat enjoyable. Paradise City is the murky top of a grimy, constant release.
Choppy fight scenes, a vaguely fine story and enough talent in the big names and new faces to make for, at the very least, an indeterminably solid experience. Forgettable and ropey in places, there is still a level of quality to this because of the name value. Not because of their presence but because of their proven record of doing their best in bad situations. Dorff comes off quite nicely with this piece, a bounty hunter bragging his way through Caribbean islands along with a Travolta role that sees him, like Dorff, commit. Their pairing makes for decent momentum toward that final third, where Willis connects with his son and they share a morally questionable bonding experience. Like father, like son tends not to apply to scoping people with a rifle as they attempt a getaway, but Paradise City is warped.