Transporter, The

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 05/31/05 15:59:06

"Goes fast... and goes nowhere."
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

The idea of super-badass Jason Statham playing a badass who kicks a lot and drives real fast seems like a good one. I mean, all you have to do is show this guy kicking and/or punching people and then driving a cool car, preferably at very high speeds.

So where, exactly, did “The Transporter” go wrong? The film, directed by Corey Yuen and produced and co-written by action movie maven Luc Besson, exists merely to show off a series of insane stunts, bitchin’ fight scenes, and loud ‘splosions. It does this, and it also gives us a sexy co-star, the lovely Qi Shu, for bonus eye candy. And yet it’s still somehow remarkably dull.

Perhaps this is because while, like so many Besson flicks, this one desperately wants to have the zing of a Hong Kong actioner, the action sequences here don’t have the kinetic oomph required in such a mindless effort. With one exception, the fight scenes never thrill and the chase scenes feel second rate. (The exception: Statham’s character fights a slew of baddies in an oil spill, making everyone extra slippery. It’s inventive enough to work.) Since we’re not giddy with action excitement, we’re stuck paying attention to the plot, which, in this plot’s case, is not good news.

The story: Frank Martin (Statham) is a retired military type now working as a no-nonsense transporter for various criminals. For a price, he’ll move anything or anyone. He also has his own set of rules: never change the plan; never give names; never look inside the package; never let them see you sweat; never feed them after midnight; never talk about Fight Club.

Anyway, while making a delivery for a group of particularly seedy bad guys, curiosity leads him to discover his package is a young woman (Shu), who escapes, then gets caught, then is delivered. Then the baddies try to kill Martin, possibly because he found out about the woman, or maybe not (the script’s not very clear on this issue).

Not one to enjoy an assassination attempt, Martin heads back to the baddies’ mansion, shoots a lot of people, punches a few others, then rescues the woman, because, um, he’s the hero or something. (The script isn’t clear on any motivations. Just roll with it.) It turns out the woman, named Lai, is connected to a ring of Chinese slaves being smuggled into France. (Never, ever base your plot around “Lethal Weapon 4.”) Or maybe she’s not. Or maybe she is. OK, she is.

Look, it’s never even too clear on why she was kidnapped in the first place, or why she’s falling in love with Martin, or why the whole thing has to end with our hero parachuting out of airplane and onto a semi truck. All I know is, the action’s about as useless as the plot, with chaotic editing (used to trim the film down to a PG-13 rating) and uninspired stunt work coming off as bland.

While watching “The Transporter,” I couldn’t help but think of BMW Films, the series of short movies produced for the internet, directed by some heavy talent (Ang Lee and Guy Ritchie, for example), and starring Clive Owen as a nameless Frank Martin kind of guy. Those shorts are little chunks of action movie bliss, with killer stunt driving and a wicked sense of fun. That’s what “The Transporter” should have been, not some lifeless, generic actioner with no sense of movement.

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