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May 12, 2006 |

By Phillip Stephens | Film | May 12, 2006 |

The Transporter was one of those rare action films that seemed coyly self-aware. It had a stoical badass in Jason Statham, plenty of nifty driving, and, best of all, wantonly preposterous fight sequences. The dramatic exposition was laughable at best, but it didn’t matter because director Corey Yuen knew exactly what the audience wanted to see: testosterone-pumping awesomeness and lots of it.

In the end, the film was just successful enough for a few more producers to sign on for a bigger and presumably cooler sequel; unfortunately for us, a little extra dough can take a franchise in a really wrong direction. The explosions may be bigger, the casting stronger, and the action crazier, but this Transporter loses its self-conscious charm in the process. By opting for a glossier product, the filmmakers stretched what little credibility they stumbled upon in the original and wound up with some rather silly bunk.

Exchanging southern France for sunny Miami, our hero Frank Martin (Statham) takes a cushy chauffer job ferrying a wealthy couple’s (Amber Valletta and … Matthew Modine?!) six-year-old son to and fro. Because Modine is a big important something or other, flashy villains kidnap his son and infect him with a nasty virus. But lo, Statham is at hand with his preened black suit and shiny Audi to save the day!

Where the original was ridiculous and fun, this one is just ridiculous and loud. The trademark fight sequences, by and large, are exchanged for more car chases and exploding things, and overall the film just feels like a showy caricature that takes itself far too seriously. What little fighting remains is edited into frenetic oblivion, which is unfortunate because what I could see ― Statham beating people up with pipes and fire hoses — looked pretty neat.

It’s too bad, really, that this franchise took a bad turn. I expected better, seeing as Luc Besson co-wrote and Louis Leterrier (responsible for this year’s underrated but glib Unleashed) directed. If nothing else, fans of Statham’s grim-faced offhandedness and the film’s sparse running-time should be appealing enough for a select few to enjoy Transporter 2, but considering that Ong Bak just hit the shelves on DVD, I wouldn’t count on it.

Phillip Stephens is a movie critic for Pajiba.

Transporter 2 / Phillip Stephens

Film | May 12, 2006 |

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