Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser) has become the most popular movie star around thanks to his starring role in the action flick Adrenaline Rush. All of Hollywood’s attention is on him. And along with his fame comes the focusing camera lens of unscrupulous paparazzi Rex Harper (Tom Sizemore).
Harper doesn’t just want to take nice harmless photos of Laramie. Bad news sells! So he wants to humiliate Laramie, destroy his reputation, tear apart his homelife, embarrass his wife and eventually put his young son in the hospital. These headlines will have Harper rolling in dough!
The paparazzi photos, scandalous tabloid headlines and stalking tactics by these shutterbugs eventually pushes Laramie to the breaking point. Now the movie star will seek vigilante justice and try to get some revenge on this paparazzi and his gang.
Paparazzi seems like a movie that came dribbling out from the wave of popular psycho thrillers that started with Fatal Attraction and then exploded in the 1990s (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Single White Female, Pacific Heights, Unlawful Entry).
There was the psycho mistress, the crazy nanny, the deranged cop, the roommate from hell. Here, it’s a menacing photographer who stakes out red carpets and puts a movie stars career, life and family at risk. Fair enough.
While the premise might sound like an intriguing idea – actor against the parasitic paparazzi who hounds him – the movie doesn’t have any unique spins or creative ideas to enliven the tried and true stalker/revenge idea that has been done countless times before and follows along the typical ‘psycho stalker’ movie playbook. It’s like an uninspired MadLibs exercise.
It sets things up and creates this villain of Sizemore’s Harper, who is causing harm and pain to his innocent victim and appears like he can get away with it all. Then we’re meant to cheer when Laramie turns the tables and finally gets his revenge on his attacker.
Laramie is stalked by Sizemore and his crew (including cohort Daniel Baldwin). The flashbulb attention gradually begins to escalate. They cause Laramie to have a car accident (I suppose a scene that is meant to evoke the death of Princess Diana) that sends his wife (Robin Tunney) to the hospital and puts his son in a coma.
Of course, there’s little the police can do about all this photographer harassment or the lying tabloid headlines that accompany Harper’s photos. The movie studio just wants Laramie to act and just try to ignore the annoying press. His wife is upset, his son is near death and Laramie is starting to feel like his new found fame is a curse. Feeling helpless, what better way to resolve this problem than for Laramie to take Harper on himself and eliminate this gang of stalkers.
Sizemore is effectively arrogant as he points his lens at the most private moments of Laramie’s life and you want to see him get his comeuppance. But since the rest of the acting is pretty weak that’s faint praise.
Hauser is rather an uncharismatic leading man. He’s meant to be this exciting movie star on the scene, who then turns to rage-filled vengeance, but he’s pretty bland and ends up being a B-grade Michael Douglas. Farina, who is typically very fun to watch, just goes through the motions and doesn’t offer anything with his detective role. Tunney, is just along for the thankless ride as the wife.
There’s some very clunky dialogue and things gradually build to some very ridiculous and illogical heights, Paparazzi almost becomes entertaining to watch for all the wrong reasons.
Naturally, Sizemore and his paparazzi pals couldn’t just be regular annoying photographers who are nuisances and leech money from their photos any way they can. No, the movie has to make them be really BAD guys who have these epically long wrap sheets and dark criminal pasts. This is to make us root for Laramie even more and that the unholy payback that will rain down on them is more a fitting end for this wretched crew.
There are some very eye-rolling moments. Movie star Laramie – who’s supposedly on the cover of every magazine across the country – is nonchalantly tailing the paparzzi on the streets of L.A. No, no one notices him. While police detective Dennis Farina is investigating the death of one of the paparazzi he finds a pen with Laramie’s name on it at the scene. It’s a tiny bit more subtle than had Laramie left his business card in the dead man’s hand.
You know Laramie is wising up when he learns this paparazzi gang can listen in on his cell phone calls, so he begins using a disposable one as he goes about his counterattack. We know it’s a disposable phone because it has a big sticker on it that reads ‘Disposable Phone’. It’s these kind of silly touches that give the movie a bit of unintentional humor.
This might have been an entertaining schlocky fun B-movie with some biting Hollywood satire sprinkled over it with clever jokes and observations about celebrity. At best Paparazzi is a listless time-waster. It follows the trusted ‘stalker/revenge’ movie template, but it doesn’t have any style of its own. The whole film is shot in a very mundane way and there’s no buildup or suspense in what is meant to be a thriller.
Had I been told this was a direct-to-video movie I would have believed it. But it wasn’t, Paparazzi actually had a theatrical release in 2004 and flopped at the box office.
Mel Gibson produced Paparazzi, and I’ve read the idea for the movie came about when he and his celebrity pals were trading stories about their experiences with paparazzi. I’ll be their stories must of been more entertaining than what ended up onscreen. Gibson must’ve called in some favors to get Chris Rock, Vince Vaughn, Matthew McConaughey to do cameos. He even pops up in the movie.
Check it out if you want, but know what you’ll be getting. A low-rent variation of the ‘Death Wish theme’, this time instead of muggers it’s photojournalists that are the scum who need to be dealt with. There’s no originality to it and even setting it in the world of glitzy Hollywood doesn’t give it a compelling unique spin. It’s pretty forgettable nonsense.