Transporter 3 (2008)
Release Date: November 26th, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Olivier Megaton Actors: Jason Statham, Natalya Rudakova, Francois Berleand, Robert Knepper, Jeroen Krabbe, David Atrakchi, Eriq Ebouaney
hile it would be no great feat to best the previous picture, “Transporter 3” so unexpectedly surpasses it in every way that this third outing comes across as a far better movie than it actually is. For those saddened by the lackluster turn the franchise took in its second installment, this finale brings Frank Martin back to his outlandish (but not completely ridiculous) brand of martial arts mayhem, crazy femme fatale associates, and 200-mile-per-hour car chases. And the special effects and plausibility of stunts are, most unpredictably, restrained enough not to detract from the fun.
Frank Martin (Jason Statham) returns to his life of strict rules and transporting questionable goods, having taken some time off previously to chauffeur for a friend. But this time out, the mission he gets caught up in isn’t voluntary. When Frank turns down a job from the mysterious Mr. Johnson (Robert Knepper), he’s unwittingly drawn back into a high-stakes world of deception and danger to replace the second-choice candidate, who winds up dead. Forced to escort the kidnapped daughter of a high-ranking Ukrainian official from Marseilles to Odessa on the Black Sea, Frank must contend with Johnson’s brutish thugs, the police, government agents, and the suggestive advances from his rather aggressive passenger (Natalya Rudakova).
The familiar circle fights return in the third theatrical adventure of Frank Martin, again choreographed by martial artist Cory Yuen. The directors, writers, and other creative positions may have changed up a bit, but the routine combat sequences, in which a squad of angry thugs slowly surrounds Statham, remain unaltered. Even though there is little to believe about the martial arts moments, it seems that the over-the-top (though creative) setups from the first two episodes are absent, infusing the most miniscule hint of reality back into an idea that dwelled foremost on “cool” over sensible.
What is not so levelheaded is Frank’s imperviousness to injury. When his initially uncooperative passenger finally decides to speak, she explains she’s a realist; the irony couldn’t be thicker, since every action surrounding Frank is canvassed with a layer of disbelief, conspicuous divinity, and, at times, total immortality. Following the pattern of the later Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and the earlier Steven Seagal films, in which audiences never have to worry about the amount of damage the hero will sustain (usually nothing), “Transporter 3” doesn’t allow for a second to worry about the affliction-immune protagonist. As a mindless adventure film, perhaps it works better that way, keeping the tone light and contrasting Frank’s absolute seriousness as the most ludicrous crises roil around him.
Though the plot is still evil conspiracy silliness, the girl is practically insane, and Frank’s uncanny ability to lose his shirt in every melee hasn’t disappeared, “Transporter 3” surprisingly learns a thing or two from its predecessors’ major mistakes. The music is more fun, the villain is actually villainous, the one-liners aren’t cringe-inducing, and the action remains innovative without breaching the line into sheer lunacy. It may not be the greatest action movie ever made, but after the atrocious results of Frank’s prior adventure, this final chapter is mighty impressive.
– The Massie Twins