The scuzzy new thriller "Paparazzi" casts Cole Hauser, the dangerously tan Latin villain in "2 Fast 2 Furious," as Bo Laramie, a hot action star who's stalked by a quartet of unscrupulous photographers. One night, in an attempt to take his picture, they wind up causing a Princess Di-style car wreck that leaves Bo's wife (Robin Tunney) with no spleen and his small son in a coma. After the accident, the men whip out their cameras to shoot the aftermath.
Why these guys are so obsessed with Bo is strange. Hauser is one of the least interesting people we're likely to see carry a bad movie. He has a model's hunky anonymity and the excitement of a golf broadcast, which just seems wrong for a movie that wants desperately to break through to the other side of the sleaze it's trying to portray. We're told Bo is really famous, but would anybody go see his movies? (His latest picture is called "Adrenaline Force 2.")
This movie, which was written by Forrest Smith and directed by Paul Abascal, is dumb and sloppily assembled, but it might have been at least entertaining were Hauser willing to act more like a straight-to-video star and less like someone who has something to lose. (Dude, you're already here. Trick us into thinking you actually like it.) To be fair to Hauser, he's aiming for realism, something the movie doesn't seem ever to have heard of, but this reasonably pulpy wrist-slap against celebrity stalkers turns into a far-fetched revenge yarn.
Bo is fed up with men pulling alongside his car and snapping away when he's at the market. Putting his boy in the hospital is the last straw. One by one, he starts picking off each offending paparazzo; Daniel Baldwin and Tom Sizemore play the least-bathed of the four, and Sizemore is so particularly -- make that, characteristically -- nettlesome in this part that the movie promises the pleasure of watching Hauser hurt him.
Representing the law is Dennis Farina, playing a soft-boiled detective who's one step ahead of Bo but three or four scenes behind us. It's unclear whether he truly knows Bo has had a hand in the photogs' deaths, but Farina is just likable enough that you pray his cop isn't blinded by Bo's fake tan and copper highlights.
"Paparazzi" never gets a sadist's blood boiling. It's just not visceral enough to scintillate us into ignoring how illogical and unintelligent it is. And Hauser is such a macho bore (he often sounds like he's hiding a foreign accent he doesn't really have) that he keeps the movie from reaching a cheaply thrilling peak. But his presence does raise a concern about his blandness. Would we even recognize him if we saw his picture splashed all over the Star?
Wesley Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Directed by: Paul Abascal
Written by: Forrest Smith
Starring: Cole Hauser, Tom Sizemore, Daniel Baldwin, Robin Tunney, and Dennis Farina
At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs
Running time: 87 minutes
PG-13 (violent sequences, sexual content, language)