There's no question that certain celebrity photographers go to such wretched extremes in invading the privacy of movie stars that it's hard not to have sympathy for a provoked actor when he takes a punch. It's also hardly surprising that a movie star with privacy issues of his own, Mel Gibson, is the lead producer on "Paparazzi," which opened Friday without advance screenings, thus avoiding an opening day review.
"Paparazzi" is no serious exploration of the issue of the invasion of privacy of celebrities but a classic exploitation picture — topical, punchy, occasionally unintentionally laughable and morally dubious. But it was shrewdly written by Forrest Smith and directed crisply by Paul Abascal (Gibson's onetime hairdresser) for maximum visceral impact upon the susceptible.
Cole Hauser stars as Bo Laramie, a Montanan, six months ago a nobody but now an overnight success and all set for the premiere of his first action picture, "Adrenaline Force," which is a huge success. (One wonders how Bo got his big chance.) Bo is a naive, essentially simple guy with a devoted wife (Robin Tunney) and a toddler son (Blake Bryan) and a newly acquired Malibu beach estate with the most inadequate security system of any lavish home in the community. But Bo shows no interest in beefing it up even when danger escalates. Ill-prepared for sudden fame, he is thrown by his unexpected lack of privacy, and when a paparazzo, Rex Harper (Tom Sizemore), ignores his request not to photograph his son at a neighborhood soccer match, he slugs the guy.
Unfortunately for Bo, Rex is no ordinary paparazzo to be satisfied with a mere half-million-dollar settlement but a raging psychopath. When Rex tells his nasty cohorts (Daniel Baldwin, Tom Hollander and Kevin Gage) that he is going to destroy Bo's life and eat his soul, he means it. But Bo is a quick learner, and "Paparazzi" turns into a take-the-law-into-your-own-hands, "Death Wish" revenge fantasy.
A smart LAPD detective (Dennis Farina) has a piece of evidence that gives him good reason to suspect Bo may have turned avenger following a reprehensible, life-threatening stunt that Rex and his pals have pulled on the star and his family. But it turns out that the detective's strongest remark is that he just wouldn't know what he would do if anyone tried to harm one of his daughters. Whatever the answer is to the paparazzi problem, it's surely not the one this film endorses.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for intensely violent sequences, sexual content and language
Times guidelines: Too brutal for children. Complex adult themes.
Cole Hauser...Bo Laramie
Robin Tunney...Abby Laramie
Dennis Farina...Det. Burton
Daniel Baldwin...Wendell Stokes
Tom Sizemore...Rex Harper
A 20th Century Fox and Icon Productions presentation of an Icon production. Director Paul Abascal. Producers Mel Gibson, Bruce Davey, Stephen McEveety. Executive producer Louise Rosner. Screenplay Forrest Smith. Cinematographer Daryn Okada. Editor Robin Russell. Music Brian Tyler. Costumes Denise Wingate. Production designer Robin Wilson King. Set decorator Lance Lombardo. Set designer Jeff Ozimek. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.In general release.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times