The Transporter

2002, Movie, PG-13, 98 mins

Review

TRANSPORTER, THE
starstarstarstar
It takes perverse genius to make an action film this stupid, so it's no surprise that writer/director Luc Besson, whose efforts to destroy French cinema as we knew it are documented in films ranging from THE FIFTH ELEMENT to WASABI, was involved. Few pictures contain as many unintentionally hilarious moments or as ridiculous an opening sequence: Four armed, ski-masked men exit the bank they've just robbed and engage in a lengthy argument with their getaway driver while security guards stand around doing nothing, as though it would be impolite to act before the felons have settled their quarrel and escaped. Driver Frank Martin (Jason Statham), an ex-Special Forces operative who now works as a mercenary transporter of goods — human or otherwise — lives by three inviolable rules: Never change the terms of the deal, never learn the client's name and never open the package. Needless to say, on his next job — which involves driving around France with a garment bag in his trunk — Frank violates rule three and discovers bound-and-gagged damsel in distress Lai (Taiwanese film star Shu Qi), whose presence in the garment bag is never plausibly explained — Besson apparently thinks continuity and credibility are for sissies. Frank delivers the package to mysteriously-named bad guy Wall Street (Matt Schulze), who somehow intuits that Frank has breached his own protocol and must be terminated with extreme prejudice. This leads Wall Street to dispatch a team of stylishly clad assassins to blow up Frank's villa with surface-to-air missiles, which prompts Frank and Lai's escape courtesy of the two scuba outfits that Frank has presciently stashed at the bottom of a well. An increasingly implausible cat-and-mouse game ensues, and Frank is aided by police Lieutenant Tarconi (Francois Berleand), who — surprise! — isn't above bending the rules and assists in what may be the least-believable jailbreak in film history. Close-cropped Brit Statham, for whom Besson tailored the part of Frank, is a better actor than he needs to be (an oblique way of saying he's not Jean-Claude Van Damme). But while Besson obviously sees him as a cockney Vin Diesel, Statham looks unsettlingly like a pumped-up Tommy Smothers. Then again, almost everything about the film is unsettling, from the preposterous hairpiece worn by Lai's villainous father (Ric Young, who seems to be twirling a mustache he doesn't have) to the endless action sequences. Despite the best efforts of Hong Kong action-auteur Cory Yuen, they're so choppy and hard to follow that they look, in Dave Barry's famous phrase, as though they were shot by strapping a camera to the head of a hyperactive seal. leave a comment --Steve Simels

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