The Transporter has always been a knock-off James Bond series: sleek black cars whirling wildly around the mountainous foothills and back roads of Europe, coupled with a stylish gentleman in a suit who beats up bad guys with martial arts moves, and all the while sweeping seductive ladies off their feet. With the move to America for the second Transporter, the action got bigger and dumber — careening vehicles through parking structures, flipping them off ramps and landing unscathed, using propane tanks like rocket grenades — while the premise was the same. Fast cars, loose women, kinetic kung fu. The Transporters have always been Luc Besson’s babies, the Frenchman who adores sleek killing machines. So I put the blame for the third installment in his hands since the project took a turn from the raucous to contemplative.
It’s the same movie as the other two. The Transporter 3 is less of a structured narrative and more of a franchise. Jason Statham has to drive something — usually a woman — for a creepy guy who might be a model in international GQ or Esquire. Things go awry, Jason Statham beats up a bunch of multicultural henchmen with an assortment of Home Depot supplies. He has some of the sex with the woman, and then drives really fast in a shiny black car, usually backwards or on two wheels or doing Burnquist darkslides with an Audi. He foils the plot, saves the day, and goes on to collect his reward of more money, the girl, and a much needed vacation. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. When you go to McDonalds in another state, province, or country, you know what you’re going to get every time. You’re not expecting a four star meal. With the Transporters, we don’t ask for much other than Jason Statham taking off his shirt, jump-heel kicking a guy in the face and driving really fast while talking in a charming accent. Which he does, so for most of you, this movie will be a rollicking success.
What bothers me about this movie is that it lacks the non-stop action of the first movie and the balls-out-fun of the second movie. It manages to retain the worst qualities of both films: the barely there plot from the first and the conveniently shittarded plot advances of the second. Frank Martin is enjoying retirement in Marseilles with the lovable Detective Tarconi (Francois Berleand, reprising his role). A job he passed on has come back to haunt him, and now he’s forced to drive around with a Ukrainian government official’s daughter (Natalya Rudakova) while a creepy American hired goon (Robert Knepper) feeds him coordinates through a wired GPS. The catch this time is he’s got a bracelet bomb on his wrist that will explode if he
doesn’t keep the bus above 55mph walks more than 75 feet from the car. Apparently, the bracelet has liquids in it that will combine into an explosive which will blow up the elementary school in New York blow up the transporter and the girl. It’s strangely reminiscent of Charlie Sheen’s magnum opus The Chase, where he hijacks Kristy Swanson, starting up just as likely a relationship, and drives around, only not nearly as entertaining or fun. It explains why this movie is a hugely entertaining, non-stop adrenaline ride! — Peter “Can I Have My Blurb Check Yet?” Travers, Rolling Stone piece of shit.
I didn’t expect high art from The Transporter, but I wanted more action. I love big, dumb action. Action movies should be stupid and incredulous with insane stunts and brutal fight sequences. High octane slugfests have made Bourne and Craig’s Bond watchable. When Frank Martin beats up ten hulking brutes with pieces of his SUIT, you’re laughing. He uses a combination of taekwondo and Men’s Wearhouse to strangle a goon and hurl him so he can stripper his way down the clothes line, until he finally whips off the belt and makes all the ladies (and some of the fellas) swoon. At this time of year, when A-list actors in massive close ups are sporting glycerin stained eyes and shouting “Give me back my baby!” or “Get off my lawn!” we want a distraction. It doesn’t expect an Oscar nod, it just wants to delight you with half-naked Jason Statham and severe beatings. Sadly they are so few and far between. Most of the movie is spent in the car, natch, with Statham trying to hold a conversation with Valentina, who is quite possibly the worst female accompaniment since (the easy Sarah Palin joke was taken out of here because, really, it’s time to let the bitch fade away).
The character of Valentina is unpleasant, going immediately from bitchy and steel-mouthed to absolutely bonkers for British biscuits. She spends most of the movie complaining about being hungry or sleeping, when she’s not making raccoon eyes at Statham. Secondly, she’s not pretty. Her dress would be better as curtains in the VIP room at a strip club or the backdrop for a Siegfreid and Roy special (post mauling). Not to mention the fact that she doesn’t exactly fill it out either. Then, there’s her face. I’ve got nothing against people with freckles, but seriously, when God farted her into existence, she took both barrels and the butthole right in the face. It’s like 14 years worth of melted chocolate chip cookies never got wiped off. However, it’s the charming correspondence course in fake Russian that really sets her off (Cate Blanchett uses it — and she’s got one of them golden baldies with the sword!). Valentina’s not dreadful, she’s just unappealing, and I seriously thought she was one of the chicks from t.A.t.u. But then again, she’s not even an actress. She’s a hair stylist. Rumor has it, Luc Besson saw her on the street, was enamored with her, and offered her acting lessons to be in his new movie. Apparently Luc wanted to up the dosage on his fuckingcrazy before holing up in the recording studio with A-Rod’s latest bat-warmer Miss Ciccone when they were making the next installment of Arthur and the Incredible Pretentious Children’s Movie.
And let’s face it. Who’s going to turn down a chance to make the love with Jason Statham? Even if you are the gay. Statham does what he always does: squints, looks good in a suit/half naked, and hardscrabbles his way through dialogue. That’s all he has to do, and he does it well. He’s managed to carve a nice little niche for himself in the action world, despite his tiny stature and bald head, and I’m all the happier for it. He’s believable as a driver with a strict set of rules, especially one who has to cruise through various directors. The biggest downside to the movie is it’s a yawnfest, because most of the movie is Martin and Valentina within 75 feet of an Audi. Despite the Gallic boner the filmmakers have for Rudakova, she and Statham have almost no chemistry. At one point, Statham stops her sexual advances and says, “What are you doing?” It doesn’t appear that was in the script. She forces Statham to perform an angry disrobe and then kiss her. Again, I think this was just her wild idea or a screen test rather than any sort of solid plot point.
Now, it has been purported by several sources, including the wise Lady Clevername, who drooled alongside me during the screening, that Transporter 3 may be a spoof of the other two movies. It provided a much more enjoyable experience when viewed that way. Olivier Megaton is the director, but it feels like he was little more than a megaphone for Besson, and Luc’s just the wacky kind of guy who would pull shit off like this. It’s making a mockery of the villains, the stunt-heavy action movie, the sexualizing of a Bond like character, all of that. I just don’t buy into that theory. Granted, there is one escape sequence involving a MacGyveresque inhalation of tire air to float the car and keep Martin breathing that’s so fuckdiculous that it better be a joke. But I just think Besson lost his edge. He’s forgotten the explosive craziness that made the first two great. The world’s starting to pass him buy. When your most exciting stunt involves driving a car into a train, a stunt that was one of the tamer sequences in the visually arresting Wanted, it makes you wonder what he’s got left in his bag of tracks.
However, Statham will never lose his appeal, unless he punts a dog on YouTube — and even then it better be a really cute puppy that’s part of a cuteness turducken: a puppy stuffed with a kitten stuffed with a baby gosling. Besson hopefully has a little powder left in the cannon. Transporter 3’s not enough of a dreadful film to deter them from making more. I just hope they return to the world of the second Transporter, with more hokey explosions and flashy action. Introspection’s fine in moderation, but we must never forget the entire purpose of the movie is to have naked Statham kicking Eurotrash.
Brian Prisco is a burger whisperer from the hills and valleys of North Hollywood, by way of the fiery streets of Philadelphia. When not casting his slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in an attempt to make sense of this crazy little thing called love, he can be found with his nose in a book in an attempt to make a grown woman cry when he beats her in the Cannonball Read. You can pick a fight with him via email at .com or decipher his crazy ramblings at The Gospel According to Prisco. Hail Discordia!
Transporter 3 / Brian Prisco
Film Reviews | December 1, 2008 | Comments ()