Expectations are an important part of the movie-watching
experience. Does a movie deliver the type and quality of entertainment
its marketing promises? The Transporter bills itself
as a silly action movie with a distinct Hong Kong feel, and
that is exactly what it is.
The movie opens with the transporter, Frank Martin (Statham),
on routine assignment in his tricked-out BMW. Frank has three
rules to live by:
1. Once the terms are agreed upon they cannot be altered
2. No names.
3. Never open the package.
Frank takes his job very seriously and is willing to use
deadly force to make everyone play by the rules. This may
seem harsh, but as long as the rules are followed, the transporter
makes a decent living and the cargo is always delivered.
So it is no surprise that the transporter’s regimented lifestyle
is rudely interrupted when he breaks his own rule and opens
a package, finding a young, attractive girl. Our man is really
into his job, so he zips up the package and delivers it faithfully
to a fellow who looks so depraved he may as well have “I am
the bad guy” tattooed on his forehead. This employer wastes
no time in double-crossing him, causing Frank to return with
a vengeance. Yes, the transporter and his former cargo team
up to fight crime, make love, and avoid arrest by a worldly
French policeman, though not in that particular order.
This, despite its European and Hong Kong influences, has
the feel of a Hollywood movie. All of the characters are very
cookie-cutter. Statham’s transporter is a strong, quiet type,
so throughout the movie Statham does his best Bruce Willis
impression, adding his own understated mannerisms to the mix.
The cargo is your typical damsel in distress, screaming when
guns and bullets are on display, then cute, flirty, and sexually
aggressive when they are not. The best performance is Berleand’s
tired but effective policeman with his own method of dispensing
justice. The scenes when he’s on screen are great examples
of good acting and character insight within an action movie.
No fight movie would be complete without legions of bad guys,
and they do quite well here. They shoot crooked bullets and
have jaws made of glass.
Jason Statham does all right in his first outing in the world
of martial arts films. He is aided by some not inconsiderable
time in the gym and the excellent choreography of Corey
Yuen (Kiss Of The Dragon, X-Men). The action is
kept simple but effective, with Statham using guns, fists,
and an oil bath (don’t ask) to combat evil. It is hard to
decide if this movie is an homage or artistic laziness on
Yuen’s part. The fights are stolen from everything as old-school
as Raiders Of The Lost Ark to some of his very own
work (Kiss, esp.). Also at time the fights are a little
hard to follow, due to some excessive editing, but this may
be to conceal Statham’s amateur martial arts skills.
With all these explosions and fistfights, the music was sadly
overlooked. The soundtrack goes from passable to terrible
and is often intrusive. When the transporter first meets the
cargo, we know by convention they are going to get together,
but this destiny is even further telegraphed by the happiest
music played during the film. It there was any doubt as to
the future of these two, the music washes it all away. While
it sounds bad, it certainly looks nice, with gentle lighting
that would make the most ugly people attractive, and attractive
people gorgeous. The city itself is a work of art, with tall
beige building and narrow stone roads, all set against the
deep blue sky or sea.
This was a good movie, with all of the good points of the
action genre—car chases, explosions, martial arts—and none
of the bad, like cheesy one-liners, phoned-in performances,
or stories that make no sense. It’s as if they distilled the
genre to its purest essence. No deep messages or confusing
sub-plots haunt this production. And at 90 minutes, the show
is over before the concept wears thin and the action never
has a chance to slow down. The Transporter is a simple
movie with a simple idea—kick ass and have fun. That’s what
we’re here for.