Paparazzi was apparently based on an idea that Mel Gibson had, fed up with the intrusion of the paparazzi into his personal life. Indeed, you get the feeling that 2004 was suddenly the year that Mel Gibson suddenly started to stop playing the nice guy and let all the un-PC parts of him his religious views, his desire to exact revenge against paparazzi not merely run over but actually be enacted as fantasies on film. Paparazzi has the feel of a Hollywood vanity production. Mel himself makes an amusing cameo appearance as a patient in the psychologists waiting room and has roped in cameos from a host of other stars including Matthew McConaughey, Vince Vaughn and Chris Rock. The film is directed by Paul Abascal, a former hair stylist who performed coiffing duties for Mel on the first three Lethal Weapon films, as well as directed the video diary for Mel on Lethal Weapon 3 (1992). Abascal subsequently proved himself as a director on various he-man action tv series including episodes of Americas Most Wanted, Nash Bridges, Viper, The Sentinel, Freedom and Witchblade, before making his theatrical debut with Paparazzi.
Most of the press reacted negatively to Paparazzi, calling it trash. Certainly, if you have to consider Paparazzi as a celebrity ego trip, it is a work of vainglorious self-adulation, painting the star as a decent family man whose only real crime is his country boy naiveté and painting the paparazzi as sleazeballs of the highest order deservous of extermination for their, well for their sheer scuzziness. (A far more balanced view of paparazzi and stars, or at least one that regarded both sides as equally amoral, came in the CSI: Miami episode Stalkerazzi a few months earlier the same year). In truth though, Paparazzi is not a bad film, it just needs to be seen for what it is an 1980s-styled exploitation film. Such films seem to have vanished almost entirely from mainstream release schedules these days although oddly they do appear to be making somewhat of a comeback in 2004, which has also seen other vigilante anti-hero films with The Punisher (2004), Man on Fire (2004) and best of all the Korean Oldboy (2003). See Paparazzi as an exploitation film and you can enjoy it for its undeniably slick production values, excellent photography and the reasonable degree of kinesis engendered by Paul Abascal as a director.
What makes Paparazzi a fascinatingly watchable film is the performance given by Tom Sizemore. Sizemore, whom one has always regarded as an underrated actor and whose career has been ironically eclipsed by the tabloid headlines he has started to accrue in real life, pulls out all stops and lets go with a scumball performance to end all scumball performances. The film is charged in a thoroughly tacky way whenever he is around. Where Paparazzi tends not to work is in the blank performance given by Cole Hauser, the son of Wings Hauser, an exploitation and action movie legend who would have made mincemeat out of the Tom Sizemore role himself a few years ago. Alas, Cole Hauser generates zero rapport with the audience and crucially fails to create any sympathy for what should be the entirely straightforward role of a family man whose personal space is violated.
Also the plot is weak. Some of the set-ups are contrived the celebrity vehicular pursuit feels oddly grafted on for the sole purpose of drawing heavy-handed analogy to the fatal accident that killed Lady Di, as do some of the other scenarios like where Cole Hauser contrives to have Tom Hollander shot by police for holding a fake prop gun as he emerges from a car. The trail of clues followed by detective Dennis Farina is also half-assed the scene where he lectures Cole Hauser on the way a coat is hung in a car ends up producing laughter from the audience.