Worth A Look: 36.88%
Just Average: 22.7%
Pretty Crappy: 19.86%
10 reviews, 81 user ratings
by Erik Childress
No one in good conscience could recommend a film like The Transporter. Or maybe it’s no one with a conscience could tell you that The Transporter is good. Anyway you deliver or don’t deliver the message, The Transporter is not a good film. That being said, there’s such a joyous nonsensical frenzy to it that you may find yourself going with it even as every part of your brain is screaming out “this movie sucks.” It has a stiff hero, fossilized villains and a plot that seems to twist 360 degrees back to its original course. It’s also so gloriously ridiculous and fast moving that you keep trying to convince yourself that the filmmakers were making a parody. They had to be. Right?Follow me here. Jason Statham (Snatch, Ghosts of Mars) plays Frank Martin, a professional transporter who, well, transports things even if it includes giving bank robbers a getaway ride. He has it down to a science; the kind found in second grade home chemistry sets. He needs to know the precise size and weight of his cargo, delivered in a souped up BMW. When four passengers show up instead of three, he refuses to move because it will screw up the travel plans. It changes the alotted gas, the weight of the car thus affecting speed. Sounds very professional, except how many force majueres could happen in a high-speed car chase especially after he’s given the cops a head start by taking the time to explain ALL of this to the thieves as they sit in front of the crime scene. But, hey, this guy has rules. That’s right – the rules. Three of them.
"Gloriously Ridiculous...But Let's Be Honest"
Rule #1 – The deal is the deal. (No changes.)
Rule #2 – No names.
Rule #3 – Never feed him after midnight. (Just kidding.) It’s actually “Never look in the package.”
“Transportation is a precise business,” or so we’re told. We all know though that rules are meant to be violated in movies, so on Frank’s second job he opens the squirming black bag to reveal a young Asian girl, Lai (Shu Qi). In a refreshing change of pace, he’s nice to her and offers her orange juice but then immediately stuffs her back into the trunk for delivery. No harm, no foul. That is until our villain, identified only in the credits as “Wall Street” (Matt Schulze) gives our hero some referral business, a case to deliver that happens to explode during the one rest stop he allows for himself. Very convenient. (This sequence contains one of the funniest moments of the film, when after the explosion, a gas station attendant is seen continuing to clean a car as if nothing had happened.)
So a plot is in motion here, but its too embarrassed to stop and ask for directions. Consider the reason Frank is given for Wall Street trying to blow him up. “You opened the package,” he says. But how does he know that? Frank delivers the girl and he’s immediately given the bomb. There was no time to even bother noticing the small slit in the duck tape he made for the orange juice.
How about the kidnapping itself? It’s revealed that Lai is the daughter of a high-ranking Chinese official. Except then we discover that her father is working with Wall Street. So who was she being kidnapped for and at what purpose? She’s aware that both of them are smuggling nearly 400 people into the country (to be slaves, I guess) so why not just kill her? Why use one group of thugs to snatch her up, then hire a third party to deliver her whom you then need to kill? One could only postulate based on one of her father’s speeches that he was trying to convert her to evil. Whatever, Mr. Palpatine.
Plot aside, the action in the film steps up to the preposterous storyline with several sequences that range from a mixture of creative anarchy to gimme a friggin’ break. The pursuit that opens the film, albeit with flashes of the absurd, could have been one of the great car chases of all time with about 725 less cuts. Our ex-military superhuman driver also manages to nearly outrun a plane (on foot), literally gets consumed in fire in one shot, pulls an Indiana Jones on a semi and just so we know he’s comfortable with his sexuality, kisses a man underwater so he can breathe. Or maybe he’s just a necrophiliac considering that the guy was dead and all.
Into dead bodies or not, Statham and the filmmakers are determined to give a little something back to the ladies by taking his shirt off more often than Shannon Tweed in a nudist camp’s shower. Testing the audience to violate rule three of never looking at the package, he does an entire sequence shirtless; complete with a sliding camera crotch shot and our hero dumping some oil/grease/molasses combo onto the playing field AND HIMSELF so he can play slip ‘n’ slide with his adversaries. This scene gets so maniacal that I could have sworn that employees of the bus station came out trying to attack with guns and pipes.
Bits within the action sequences are fun and one can always derive a good laugh out of characters showing up at the perfect time despite having no possibility to know (or how) to show up there. Even after Frank wastes an hour playing Enter the Dragon in the Chocolate Factory while everyone else gets away (at night), the baddies still get frightened (in the daytime) at the site of an anonymous cropduster as if the Al Qaeda were on board.
Just when things stop exploding and heads maintain their original bone structure, the filmmakers keep the laughs coming. If it’s not the love theme that gets played the first time Frank realizes he has a tied-up Asian woman in his trunk it’s the carnage of a house assault that ends with a lovely little scuba trip as if they were cave diving through Waterworld. For dessert, there’s dialogue like “You’re always complaining, except when we make love you say nothing,” or after she kills the paterfamilius that’s had her kidnapped, smacked around and threatened with death, “He was a bastard but he was still my father.” That comes courtesy of Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen (who went from films like La Femme Nikita, The Professional and The Karate Kid to The Fifth Element, Kiss of the Dragon and The Messenger.)
Of course, someone DOES have to say the dialogue and I don’t know who the casting director or dialect coach was for this film, but a scene in a garage between the Englishman, Frenchman and Asian woman is impossible to understand even if you had a Klingon decoder ring that translated Pig Latin. Even Matt "Fast and the Furious” Schulze was likely hired not for his acting ability but his ability to hang off a moving truck.There’s a fine line between rolling your eyes or applauding at such a delightful mess that you may even want to get down and bow at its reverence. It’s bad and you know it’s bad, but not in the same way that XXX was; a disaster that had the audacity to think it was breaking new ground and tackling it with the skill of a John Woo or James Cameron. I don’t know what The Transporter thinks of itself, but it keeps chugging along full steam ahead for 90 minutes, reminding me of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer test drives a car and keeps driving despite the tank falling way below empty. When told he needs gas, he replies “No time!” I would never recommend The Transporter in good conscience to anyone, but I guarantee that it would sell out as the opening night attraction at the First Annual FilmKeg Festival.
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originally posted: 10/11/02 02:58:07