(PG-13) 1 1/2 stars

(PG-13) 1 1/2 stars
An utterly routine revenge movie. On any of the cable TV networks, it is the type of flick scheduled for the wee hours; after the last well-known action film and before the infomercials.
Robin Tunney and Cole Hauser in 'Paparazzi'
With movies, excuse me, with product like this, the best you can hope for is a familiar face in the supporting cast, maybe, or perhaps a good stunt or two. Mel Gibson produced the film (with partners Bruce Davey and Stephen McEveety) and tries to sweeten the viewing experience with cameo appearances by three big-name performers. Because I so very much don't want you to spend a dime on this trifle, I'll tell you about them now. The first cameo happens as the lead actor leaves a counseling session. He exits through the waiting room and the camera lingers for a moment on a rumpled, worried-looking fellow sitting in a chair, his lap laden with notebooks. The seated man is Mel Gibson, in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo. Next up is Chris Rock, who plays a pizza delivery guy for about two minutes. He doesn't have any jokes to speak of; he just fusses around a lot. The last cameo is from Matthew McConaughey, playing himself. He exchanges pleasantries with the film's male lead (while looking very uncomfortable) at a movie premiere. So there you go; the surprise celebrity appearances have been spoiled by the mean old movie critic. Now you can spend your hard-earned money on something of worth. What really annoys me about this particular 82 minutes of product is that the premise actually had potential. I've watched some news pieces on paparazzi - freelance photographers who specialize in taking candid shots of celebrities. The financial rewards can be astronomic, but only if the photographer delivers a really juicy photo: a celebrity drunk in public, a well-known couple squabbling, a married performer out with someone other than his or her spouse. The paparazzi go where celebrities go: premieres, of course, but also to trendy nightclubs and restaurants. And to airports. And sometimes to where an actor's children go to school. All of this raises interesting questions about the celebrities' right to privacy vs. the right of the paparazzi to do their jobs, skuzzy though they may be. Some say that loss of privacy is part of the price of fame and besides, these people long to be photographed, don't they? Obviously, no one attending a red carpet event has any business complaining about being photographed. Ah, but what about the actor that parks behind the theater and tries to slip in the back, only to find paparazzi hiding behind the dumpster? Perhaps it's unreasonable for a celebrity to expect to visit a trendy nightclub or restaurant and not be shot, but what about the airport? Don't celebrities have the right to go from their planes to their cars without being accosted? What about a celebrity couple that rents a Caribbean island villa for a private vacation, only to have a photographer wait in a boat near the island and use special cameras and equipment to snap long-distance shots of them nude by the pool? And what about paparazzi that shout vile things at celebrities, hoping to trigger an anger outburst that they can shoot? Finally, what about celebrities trying to protect their children? When a photographer takes a picture of some movie star shopping with her son, isn't he putting a target on the kid? When I first heard of this film I got excited, foolishly believing that Gibson and company would use the movie as a forum for arguing the ethics of it all. I pictured a movie with the beleaguered star and the wily paparazzi trying to outfox each other, with the requisite action scenes mixed with fiery debates. Instead, I get a generic revenge movie with Cole Hauser, an actor possessing zero charisma, playing actor Bo Laramie, the red-hot star of Adrenaline Force and Adrenaline Force 2. Though Bo is now famous, he remains a Montana transplant who just wants to live quietly with his wife (Robin Tunney) and young son (Kevin Gage) in their fabulous Malibu compound. Alas, an especially mean pack of paparazzi (lead by Tom Sizemore, who keeps his performance on the bug-eyed, screaming level for the whole film) won't let up on Bo, leading to a scene reminiscent of Princess Di, where the paparazzi box in the Laramie's car, triggering a wreck that injures the missus and leaves the boy in a coma. The cop in charge of the investigation (Dennis Farina, breezing through the movie on the way to his new gig on Law & Order) tries to work matters out legally, but Bo has other ideas in mind. You can write the rest. For that matter, you can probably act in it and film it as well as the parties involved. But don't you even consider debating on where the line should be drawn between the rights of the paparazzi and those of the celebrities. There's no room for ideas like that in a doorstop of a movie like this.

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