out of 10
European-made All-American Action Movie
London lad, Jason Statham has AGAIN been duped into playing Frank Martin. Like the original "The Transporter", some fast talking dude at the production company has convinced him that this one has a serviceable plot. Despite also being written by Luc Besson, almost singularly responsible for almost every recent French action movie that North America has ever heard about including, "Taxi", "Yamakasi", "Nikita", "Leon", "The Messenger" and "Fanfan La Tulippe".and Robert Mark Kamen who wrote "Gladiator", the universally panned "Lethal Weapon 3" and with whom Besson wrote the putrid "The Fifth Element", the story here lies at the heart of what is wrong with the picture, even if it is nowhere as lame as the first..
An ex-special forces soldier, Martin.now works as a "transporter", moving anyone or anything at a price in his black BMW. In many ways, the character closely resembles the original intent of Ian Fleming's James Bond, living dangerously and surviving not by gift of gizmos but by good planning, ingenuity and lightning reaction. And when faced with a dozen street thugs with nothing more than his bare fists, it is his freshly dry-cleaned black suit and tie that are his biggest concern. Having him run about after a kidnapped child, however, has little to do with what motivates Martin, if not conflicting with the character. Martin is specifically not a cultured and wholesome hero with good morals and it is to Statham's credit the effort he goes to in trying to turn this supertanker of a character around with lttle more than riddles written into this inappropriate script. Indeed, the gangster behind the snatch is merely a mercenary like himself and the film is left in a difficult dilemma as the two are on par morally.
Likewise, unchained from the wisdom of Corey Yuen, Louis Leterrier, a Yankie-o-phile Frenchman who studied at NYU has followed his instincts and made the crass choice of moving the location from the south of France to the Jeb Bush country of Dade County in Miami, Florida. And with all the usual US stereotypes of urban violence and car parking lots, the charm of the leafy lane that served the enhance the action in the original is lost leaving the story to dissolve into the background with a graceless film that more closely ressembles a poor remake of "Bad Boys 2" and ubiquitous TV movies that pour nightly onto our screens.
Backed by ace camerawork, and the best in cinematography and some "Transporter 2" has stunts that are more impressive than before, not least as Statham does most of them himself as he runs up the face of a huge articuated truck as it drives towards him as if it were a staircase, jumps through windows, leaps onto jetskis from a pier and races a helicopter in a Lambourgini. At the same time, though, the stunts are also increasingly implausible, at times treating gravity as an almost total irrelevance. More unforgivably, as Leterrier spends the big bucks making the all-action, American movie of which he's always dreamt, he slips up on many of the small things including continuity, for instance, a great deal is made of an aeroplane's landing gear being jammed in the down position, yet we next see long sequences of the same aircraft flying with the wheels up..
In this bigger production,
the writers too have lost touch with the humour. With America, as a
setting, the fine cat-and-mouse of Martin with French Detective Tarconi
is impossible and François Berléand, one of France's greatest
actors, is left with in near total irrelevance as Tarconi, supposedly
on holiday. Clowning around, he brings to life otherwise dead lines,
such as when he comes into contact with Florida Police, but still the
magic is just not there. In an effort to regain interest, Leterrier
brings in a couple of special henchmen. Firstly, maybe more to keep
Statham's interest more than the audience's, there is Tom Flemyng. A
talented comedian with whom Statham can never keep a straight face,
Flemyng, like Statham, is another alumni of the acclaimed "Lock,
Stock and Two Smoking Barrels", but here he is wasted as the humourless
thug Dmitri. Additionally, Leterrier introduces singer Kate Nauta as
Lola, a psychopathic bimbo who liberally sprays everything with her
machine guns as well as doing one of the closing numbers on the soundtrack
that consists, largely of Alexandre Azaria's symphonic electro-rock
that simply sounds tinny right to the bitter end..
Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett
Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett