I drink cheap beer. While I can appreciate the finer niceties of a microbrew, I prefer to wage war on my waistline with a frosty can of PBR, or any of the other frat beverages du jour that will fill a red plastic Beirut cup or dissolve the date rape drugs. It goes down easy, my world view lightens, and I find myself dancing on pianos while shrieking bridal shower parties stuff singles into my pants. Which was a much more convenient and less publicly humiliating way to pay off my bar tab before the advent of cell phone videos and YouTube. But the point is, despite the supposed lowly peasant quality of my potent potable, it makes me feel glorious and gets the fucking job done.
Such is the case with my selection for this week’s Hangover Theatre, the delightful backflip-roundoff combo of The Transporter and The Transporter 2, which are featured back to glistening, shirtless back on F/X this weekend. Neither Transporter film is particularly of high-quality in terms of plot or logic, but they excel in the necessary category of mind-numbingly fun action sequences. For pondering over glasses of brandy and cigars in the smoking lounge or even lattes amidst the laptop clatter of “writers” in the local coffee shop, it may curdle the fine cheese of conversation. But for lying half-passed out on your couch while the afternoon rays of the cruel sun play Simon on your frontal lobe, accept no substitutes.
Both movies came from the mind of Luc Besson (and Robert Mark Kamen) so it makes sense they would have a fighting chance at being bastions of awesomeness. With the mixed bag of Besson, for every Leon the Professional or The Fifth Element, we get an Arthur and the Invisibles or Revolver — yes, the sonofabitching Guy Ritchie’s attempt at getting his groove back EPIC FAIL. The first movie was directed by Corey Yuen, who ends up choreographing most of the fight work in the second film. Yuen’s pedigree is pretty decent, working mostly with Jet Li on things like Hero and Black Mask II. Louis Leterrier helped to direct the first Transporter and did the heavy work on Transporter 2, which I find to be the more balls-out ridiculous of the two films, and ultimately the more enjoyable one to watch. Leterrier and Besson teamed up before on the supremely underrated and fantastically enjoyable Danny the Dog (Unleashed), which is easily my all-time favorite Jet Li/Bob Hoskins action film. The three of these fellas know how to craft a story around hard-fighting badasses.
The Transporter is essentially the tale of Frank Martin, a driver for hire who adheres to a samurai code of ethics. Both films feature a suave Jason Statham wearing a suit and beating the shit out of henchmen in suits. He defies the laws of physics and logic with his flailing limbs and sleek operation of shiny black automobiles. When naming his penis, the genital generator would short circuit like Ally Sheedy’s career. Despite the exorbitant number of times Statham’s black dress shoes connect with faces, chests, and mansion doorways, the movie manages to maintain a healthy PG-13 rating. While the Transporters fail to crack the upper echelon of action movies because of their lack of R-rated bloodshed, they shine supremely under the unforgiving razor of cable television editing, gleaming with the Eye of the Tiger.
The first Transporter is a little more Bushido than Bourne, focusing mostly on the ronin mentality of Martin and his code of ethics. Even when offered more money to drive his quarry of bank robbers further, he takes only his share and sends them on their way. Sure, he may be breaking the law, but he refuses to bend his own rules. It’s by adhering to such a strict regimen that Martin is able to stay on the up and up, even when shadowed by the charming local constabulary Detective Tarconi, played with aplomb by Francois Berleand. Predictably, the movie ends up taking a turn when Martin breaks his own code, opening up the “package” he’s paid to deliver. It turns out to be a tiny Asian girl (Shu Qi). (That’s why I always send my Asians UPS. FedEx tends misplace people on islands with bloody volleyballs.) Apparently, her crime lord father (Ric Young) decided to have her kidnapped and sent to his partner, some kind of swaggering trust fund douche named Wall Street (Matt Schulze). Wall Street tries to blow up Statham, which is a terrible mistake, and leads to him rescuing the girl, and then causing a ruckus and …Yeah, trying to trace the wobbly plot on this one is like Clark Griswold untangling Christmas tree lights. It’s better to forget it and just watch Jason Statham kick ass.
The entire purpose of the Transporter is for Jason Statham to take off his shirt and fuck up Eurotrash. The movie is pretty useless whenever Statham isn’t shooting at anyone or zooming around in a high-octane action sequence. This is why it’s the perfect bloomin’ onion to your Hangover Viewing buffet. You can doze off and not miss a damn step. There’s an attempt to build a bizarre love angle between Frank and the young Asian girl, which involves Madeline cookies and Luc Besson’s continuing obsession with having bad guys fire rockets at the good guys. Woo’s got doves, Besson’s got missiles. After escaping, Jason Statham and the girl get horizontal. It doesn’t make any fucking sense, but frankly, who am I to blame a girl for doing Jason Statham? It might not have even been in the script, she just might have been sucked in by his all-consuming charisma.
Anyway, the rest of the movie involves some sort of plot with Wall Street and the Asian girl’s daddy in the worst toupee since Bruce McCullough stuck a squirrel on his head so nobody would know his secret. They have a truckload of illegal Chinese immigrants they’ve smuggled into Monaco, and Statham has to stop them, rescue the girl, and save the day. If there were better villains, this might not have been too bad of a sequence. Statham asswhoops his way across a loading dock, and then ends up on top of the truck, driving with every part of his body except his hands while he punches, kicks, shoots and swerves in a tractor-trailer. While I was trying to enjoy the total goofiness of the sequence, I kept getting distracted by the thought that presumably the back of the truck was full of smuggled immigrants, who by all rights should have been pasted around the insides like so much Kung Pao goo. The villians are pretty weak here as well. Ric Young is like Richard Dawson in The Running Man, only he lacks the amusing kitchy performance, the smarmy dialogue, and nobody fires him through a billboard in a rocket sled. Then we’ve got Matt Schulze, who I swore to Godtupus must have gone to the Cole Hauser Upstairs College of Swarthy Villainy. Then I looked Schulze up on IMDB, and sure as shitfire, the motherfucker was actually in The Fast and The Furious. He’s perfectly serviceable as a middle-management goon, but as supreme boss, not so much.
Transporter 2 decides to totally throw any semblance of plausability out the window, becoming a non-stop CGI fueled Jackie Channish movie starring Jason Statham and fast cars. The locale changes to Miami and the story gets mildly better. They trade the smoking barrels for spinning sidekicks, a wise choice. The basic premise of the movie is Statham is acting as chauffeur for the son of a high-level DEA official (Matthew Modine) and his wife (Amber Valetta). A mercenary named Gianni Chellini (Alessandro Gassman) and his psychotic killer girlfriend Lola (Kate Nauta) kidnap the son to inject him with a super-virus that turns him into a biological weapon that can wipe out all of the drug enforcement officials in the USA. Oh, and Keith David (Spawn, Men at Work) is in it and so is Jason Flemyng (Snatch, Stardust) with a worse fucking Russian accent than Natasha, I mean, Cate Blanchett. MOOSE AND SQUIRREL.
Yeah, alright, so whatever the movie is about. This time, they forego the constant shirt taking offery for more ass-kicking offery. I guess this one is more for the lads than the ladies. The action sequences in this movie are Rock Star Energy Drink slurping, adrenaline fueled, logic-blowing insanity, but at the same time it’s like when Three Six Mafia won the Academy Award. Your brain went, “There’s no way that can happen. That’s fucking impossible. That violates every fucking law of the universe. It totally demolishes the realism and credibility of this institution. YAY! HAH! BURN HOLLYWOOD BURN!” I have no problem with physics-boggling stunts, provided the movie establishes that tone from the get-go. The opening sequence in the parking lot where Statham takes off his jacket before beating up the Wu-Tang Clan knockoffs not only sets the pace nicely, but makes me want to spawn little Statham clones in martini glasses so civilization never loses the opportunity to watch a Jason Statham kick people.
The action in Transporter 2 is so beyond the realm of belief, I would sooner think it possible to see Mel Gibson dancing the Hava Nagila at the bar mitzvah for Lourdes Ritchie and her manbrow. Statham flips a car off a loading dock to use a crane hook to knock a bomb from the bottom of the car, and then lands perfectly fine. He crashes through a parking structure barrier in his car, soaring majestically into the next building across. He beats the shit out of a goon squad with a fire hose, in a residential mansion mind you. He fires a rocket-propelled canister of nitrous at Lola in the middle of a dentist’s office, and she walks away unscathed. Oh, and he uses casaba melons as boxing gloves to beat up a giant henchmonster only to end up killing him by crushing his head with a boat. The violence is extremely cartoonish right up to and including the entire character of Lola, who stands in a doctor’s office in a pink bra and garter panties get-up, firing two silencer machineguns with hate in her Pete Wentz spackled black eyeliner. Even the mild attempt at a romance is used more as a demonstration of Frank Martin’s unwavering honor code rather than some sort of plot device. Hell, even Francois Berleand is back as Tarconi, managing to elevate his Joe Pesciesque Leo-Getzy cameo with his effervescent Gallic charm.
It’s the perfect movie to slog your liquor addled brain along to, what with the bizarre techno-laden soundtrack blaring out every few minutes to wake you for the beatings. And yes, there will be a Transporter 3, coming out this fall. While Besson and Kamen are still penning the script, they’ve lost their directing team. The new one is being helmed by Olivier Megaton, who has a few films and some graffiti tags to his credit, and the distinction of picking his stage name based on the fact his birthday is on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Thanks to Vermillion, I’ve seen the trailer, and it looks like they’ve combined all the grand qualities into an orgy of deliciousness. Essentially, Jason Statham seems to take off or tear his shirt in every scene, right before he starts kicking people in the face. Hollywood has finally learned how to write a sequel. I have no idea what it’s about, but who cares? Jason Statham kicking things shirtless!
Drink it in, baby. Chin it all.
Brian Prisco is a warrior-poet from the valley of North Hollywood, by way of Philadelphia. He wastes most of his life in desk jobs, biding his time until he finally becomes an actor, a writer, or cannon fodder in the inevitable zombie invasion. He can be found shaking his fist and angrily shouting at clouds on his blog, The Gospel According to Prisco.
Transporter & Transporter II / Brian Prisco
Hangover Theater | June 13, 2008 | Comments ()