Vinnie Barbarino, where have you gone? John Travolta was the breakout star of the 70s sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, so forgive me if I see every role he's done since then as a variation of the sweet, wisecracking Sweathog. He was Nancy Allen's ill-intentioned accomplice in Brian DePalma's Carrie, but after he hit the big time as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever (1977), he stayed firmly on the side of the good guys until John Woo's Broken Arrow (1996). In that high-octane action flick, he played an out and out evil, cackling villain.
Travolta had played bad boys throughout his career, but even professional killer Vincent Vega in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction had a core of heroic goodness somewhere inside. Not so the nuke stealing, government blackmailing Major Vic Deakins. That performance unleashed the devil inside, and over the past 14 years Travolta has played a series of oft-hysterical, over the top villains (Face/Off, Swordfish, The Punisher, and last year's The Taking of Pelham 123).
In Pierre Morel's From Paris With Love, which opens on Friday, Travolta looks, acts, and tosses around the f-bomb like a menacing, swaggering, nasty bad guy, even though, (psst!) he's supposed to be a good guy. Whenever he's played a character like the over-the-top American spy he plays in Paris, he seems to be having a helluva good time, even if the movie fails to live up to expectations, which is why I've come to prefer the "Bad Boy Travolta." The "Good Guy Travolta" in movies like Old Dogs is the kind that receives Razzie nominations. What about you? Do you prefer "Good Guy Travolta" or "Bad Boy Travolta"?