Perhaps the best way to think of it is as a war. On this side are the Hollywood stars with their armies of agents, managers, lawyers, publicists, handlers, personal assistants and, of course, bodyguards. And on this side are the paparazzi - guerrilla warriors armed with cameras, whose job it is to break through the stars' defenses, steal small parts of their souls and sell them to the highest bidder. The lengths to which paparazzi will go to get "the shot" are legendary - hiding out in trees, digging through garbage, spitting on the stars and shooting their reactions. Car chases are routine. So is helicopter surveillance. And there's very little the stars can do about it, George Clooney's "Hard Copy" crusade notwithstanding. Even the paparazzi who were trailing Princess Diana that hot August night, one of whom called 911 while the others recorded the scene for both posterity and prosperity, got by with a slap on the wrist, if that.
Clearly, we're dealing with scum-sucking whores here, which means they're perfect fodder for a good old-fashioned revenge fantasy. Paparazzi, which goes after these guys with a baseball bat, will surely be the number-one box-office attraction in Beverly Hills and parts of Malibu for weeks to come. It's payback time, courtesy of Mel Gibson, who, despite devoting an entire film to Jesus Christ, isn't known for turning the other cheek. Gibson produced the movie, which is directed by his Lethal Weapon hairdresser, Paul Abascal. (Insert your own hairdresser joke here.) But getting mad isn't what Paparazzi's about, getting even is. Cole Hauser, a relatively unknown actor who would probably kill to have paparazzi hassle him, stars as Bo Laramie, a very well-known actor who would kill to have them leave him alone. New to the fame game, Laramie appears not to have been told that people might want to take his picture.
Actually, he appears not to have been told anything about being a star, which makes it that much harder to believe he is one. Where's his entourage? Hell, where's his Salvadoran maid? Along with his wife and son, Laramie seems right off the bus, a hayseed with bits of straw in his hair, which is the movie's way of stacking the deck: The more noble he seems, the more ignoble the paparazzi seem. The movie's other way of stacking the deck is by turning the paparazzi into guys whom other scum-sucking whores would turn away from in disgust. "I want to destroy your life and eat your soul," Tom Sizemore's Rex says after Laramie feeds him a knuckle sandwich for photographing his son at a soccer match. You'd think a $500,000 settlement would satiate Rex, but he wants blood. And he gets some, in a high-speed car chase and crash that's supposed to remind us of Princess Di's tragic flight along the Seine.
What follows is your classic revenge plot, Laramie putting some of his action-hero moves to good use. Speaking of which, Paparazzi closely resembles Ransom, where Gibson's airline executive broke every rule in the book while single-handedly rescuing his kidnapped son. Revenge fantasies are wonderful things, but you have to wonder whether they're necessary when reality itself is so luridly enjoyable. Paparazzi zeroes in on the paparazzi while ignoring the world they inhabit - the magazines and newspapers that provide them with filthy lucre, the friends and neighbors who provide them with leads, the adoring public (that would be you and me) whose insatiable curiosity about the most mundane details of stars' lives makes it all possible. Yes, it's a shame that celebrities have to put up with this, but why blame only them? When the shutters are clicking and the flashes are popping, there's plenty of scum to go around.