After the stupid yet charming The Transporter (2002) and the misguided The Transporter 2 (2005) comes Transporter 3, which presumably dropped the definite article in its title to weather the recession. Actually, I’ve got a few theories regarding the absence of the word “The”, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Transporter 3 isn’t quite as uninspired as the previous instalment in the series, but it’s a far cry from the original, which already set the bar ridiculously low.
Jason Statham reprises the role of Frank Martin, whose name is repeated every five minutes to assure us the filmmakers didn’t change the title because they actually thought “Transporter” was the guy’s name. The latter is forced out of retirement by a criminal mastermind (Robert Knepper) in the process of blackmailing a Ukrainian official (Jeroen Krabbé) regarding the disposal of toxic waste. Yes, this is yet another action flick in which a tough guy saves the world from pollution by blowing stuff up. Last I checked, gasoline explosions were bad for the environment, but maybe the producers made up for it by recycling the missing “The”.
Boring new premise aside, the plot is uncomfortably similar to that of the first movie. Once again, Frank is stuck chauffeuring a rebellious daddy’s girl (Natalya Rudakova) whose identity is kept secret even though most viewers will have figured it out ten minutes into the film. The woman is insufferable. She gets high instead of cooperating with her transporter (no longer “the” transporter), finds it terribly amusing to pee on the floor of a convenience store, and tries to have sex in the middle of a car chase. If I were Frank, I’d have dumped the obnoxious bimbo and resumed my sexually ambiguous relationship with Inspector Tarconi (François Berléand).
Another staple of the Transporter franchise is the hero’s habit of ignoring every restriction he sets for himself. The movie doesn’t even bother explaining what the rules are this time around, only that he keeps breaking them: “Everything has an exception,” Frank says, not realizing it’s his third in this scene alone. This of course negates any dramatic effect the gimmick might have had, but I suppose the point isn’t to emphasise the urgency of the situation so much as to remind us that tough guys break conventions (even self-imposed ones), including that pesky precept about keeping sequel titles consistent.
Transporter 3 does bring something new to the mix: an explosive device that prevents Frank from getting more than one hundred feet from his car. This measurement must’ve seemed somewhat inconvenient for someone more accustomed to the metric system, but the contrivance leads to rather amusing if implausible set pieces. Consider the bit in which the hero’s car sinks into the river, leaving him to decide between drowning and being blown to bits. Frank’s solution is kind of ingenious in a complete nonsense sort of way.
It’s for scenes of this exact nature that people watch the Transporter films (or The Transporter films). Fans of the series don’t much care about plot, characters, or the laws of physics. They just want to see eccentric action sequences that defy common sense and provide an excuse for Statham to take his shirt off. It should then come as good news that Cory Yuen, who directed the first movie, choreographed the fights in this latest instalment. Unfortunately, we don’t really get to see much of his work.
There’s an impressive martial arts sequence in which a hired goon thrusts a metallic rod at Frank, who leans back, allowing it to slide inside his shirt; the goon then lifts his weapon, tearing the shirt open, while the hero spins out of the sleeves and uses the remaining fabric to bind another assailant. At least, I think that’s what happens. I had to reconstitute the events from a close-up of the rod, a quick zoom on the shirt, and a two-second shot of Frank moving about shirtless. Here’s another theory regarding the film’s missing determiner: maybe it was there all along, but director Olivier Megaton shot the title from so close the audience never got a look at the whole thing.
It doesn’t matter anyway. With its formulaic plot and shallow characters, this movie is so trite it’s likely to be forgotten two weeks after its release. I mean, what’s the point of an action flick in which you can’t see the action? Even if you have an unreasonably high tolerance for brainless violence (or irrational love of Jason Statham), there’s only one Transporter worth remembering. Conveniently, I get to call it The Transporter.