Frank Martin makes his living transporting everything from suitcases to people in an illegal and extremely dangerous world. No questions asked. His precision and effectiveness has made him prolific and highly desired amongst the most illegitimate of crowds. He has three rules that govern every job he takes: Rule one -once an agreement has been reached, nothing can be changed, Rule two – No names, and Rule three – Never open the package. Rules are made to be broken.
“The Transporter” is a highly stylized, power-pumping action thrill ride. Rarely does the movie lag, even though the plot is a barren wasteland of incessant nothingness and it always has an explosion or brawl waiting around every corner. The premise is terrific and the fighting tremendous. Jason Statham (“Snatch”) takes charge in a manner that no other action hero has performed this summer. Dominating, charismatic and surprisingly agile, he adds a swagger to the character of Frank that few actors could match. Surely Statham should be included on the short list of actors being considered to fill the shoes of 007.
A fantastic chase scene transporting burglars, skillfully utilizing a BMW and the narrow streets of Nice, introduces Frank’s lucrative and specific job. Frank is an ex-Special Forces operative and lives by exact guidelines – any unheralded variations in transportation agreements are fixed immediately, as one robber discovers. Soon after finishing this job, he arranges another, less overtly unlawful, transport. Problems arise when a tire blows out causing him to discover a body as the package. Rule three is broken when he opens the package finding a girl bound and gagged. He benevolently allows the girl a bathroom break, where she promptly tries to escape and breaks Rule one. The real trouble, and subsequent action, begins when the recipient realizes that Frank has seen the package and tries to take him out.
This angers the military man significantly – he returns to the recipient’s (affectionately called Wall Street) house, pummels everyone in sight and takes a decently attractive Mercedes for redemption. Unbeknownst to him, he has taken Lai (Qi Shu), the package, along for the ride as well. This provokes Wall Street and his many uncontrolled, very accessible crew members to high levels of anger and desire for redemption. The rest of the plot, with the exception of Frank’s only confidant, a cop named Tarconi (French actor Francois Berleand) is a muck of uninteresting and unnecessary motives and information.
Short pieces about mud and numerous infomercials are more entertaining and engaging than the story surprisingly created by the mastermind Luc Besson. Although Besson fails to duplicate to his previous successes (works he wrote and directed – “The Professional” and “The Fifth Element,”) his script does allow director Corey Yuen to exhibit a truly awesome piece of achievement overflowing with captivating combat sequences. Surprisingly, very few people actually die, which is quite impressive when considering other modern action movies. One scene of particular interest has Statham fighting a mob covered in oil and using bicycle pedals to his advantage. On a truck, in a bus, through a door, nothing is left unused in the movies action, and it all proves to be more engrossing from one moment to the next.
Outside of the work by Statham and Berleand, the acting ranges from sub-par to atrocious. Even though her attractiveness radiates, Qi Shu’s performance severely suffers due an insurmountable language barrier. Although the dialogue did “Transporter” no justice, the actors cook up a dismal display, lacking talent. However, the stuntmen and actors who perform all the fighting seqeunces do command respect. Regardless of their delivery, these men can certainly put on a spectacle through their brawling.
“The Transporter” offers all the excitement and muscle it promises. Statham is impressive outside of his comfort zone of Guy Ritchie films. It might be a pointless film full of mindless tripe, but it explodes with the fun of guns, knives and fists. Fighting in the traditionally choreographed, non-camera manipulated fashion is the main focus of the film. Come for the action, but stay for the originality filled homage to the pre-“Matrix”-era. Forget the story and overlook the acting and this is certainly one of the best, naturally portrayed, action movies this year.