Monday, September 14, 2009

The Transporter (2002)

Movie quotes:
Look, I’m gonna give you some advice. I don’t know what you’re into; I don’t care what you’re into. But whoever wants you dead thinks you’re dead. You have a free pass to start over. Here’s the advice: START OVER!"
- Frank Martin (Jason Statham)

At a glance:
Jason Statham’s makes Frank Martin a worthy action hero with top-notch car chases and Jackie-Chan style fight choreography, but the dramatic/love scenes are clunky

Our review (with spoilers):
Frank Martin is a transporter – the transporter, as a matter of fact. His job is to deliver anything you want by car. Should troubles arise, he’s built to handle it. He’s a former Special Forces operator who left the Armed Forces due to disgruntlement with all his good work going to waste. So he decides to just become a mercenary with a very short list of unbreakable rules (like #3: Never Look In The Bag). Of course, he breaks his own rules and looks inside one of the bags he is delivering. Circumstances build until he is fully involved – romantically and otherwise – with Lai (Shu Qi), as Asian woman small enough to be stuffed into a bag, and yet tough enough to hold a gun to her own father’s head. Lai wants to break up a people smuggling racket. About 30 guys with guns, knives, axes, and martial arts training stand in the way, led by Wall Street (Matt Schulze), a man so lanky and so evil that he even sneers in his official police file photo. Statham also has to fend off Inspector Tarconi (François Berléand), a laconic, persistent local detective.

Your general vibe about Transporter will depend on whether you view Jason Statham as just another small-brained, superficial movie muscleman, or a quiet, intriguing hooligan. I happen to be in the latter camp, so Statham movies amuse me and Statham holds my interest.

Strengths are the opening and closing car/truck chases, and a series of brilliant Jackie-Chan-like martial arts fights pitting Statham against roomfuls of heavily armed thugs and martial arts experts. When things get tough, Statham even greases himself up and fights from the floor, wriggling around like a farm animal. The action looks even better when compared with the attempts at love and drama. Shu Qi is adequate as the comic relief femme fatale, although I must admit I liked her better years ago during her full frontal nudity days (under the monikor Hsu Chi). The plot is facetious, yet still seemed to be taking itself seriously (this is never a good thing). Some of the Statham/Qi dialogue is clunky; this often happens when the directors (in this case, successful Hong Kong filmmaker Corey Yuen and French filmmaker Louis Leterrier) speak English as a second language.

Rating:  2.5 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"The acting might be shoddy, the plot nonsense and the dialogue clunky, but the fighting is exquisitely done. Inventive, athletic, fun, stylish and tight, it's everything the rest of the film isn't."
- Time Out

"Statham impresses in a movie that is simultaneously the best (the fight scenes) and worst (everything else) action movie of the year. Destined for drunken Friday night rental heaven."
- Empire Magazine

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