The Transporter (2002)
The Transporter (2002)

Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Release Date: October 11th, 2002 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Louis Leterrier, Corey Yuen Actors: Jason Statham, Shu Qi, Matt Schulze, Francois Berleand, Ric Young, Doug Rand

 


 

“T

he Transporter” tries to be a James Bond-like adventure, but ultimately turns out to be prime material for an episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Unrealistic, uninspired, and, most importantly, poorly constructed, this gauche thriller only succeeds in being unintentionally hilarious – which oddly adds entertainment value the creators couldn’t have planned for. The end product isn’t entirely unexpected, considering that Luc Besson protégé Louis Leterrier shares directing duties with Corey Yuen, an accomplished Chinese stunt choreographer (growing up with Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung), working from a screenplay by Robert Mark Kamen – all filmmakers more comfortable with action than competent storytelling.

Frank Martin (Jason Statham) only has three rules for transporting: 1. Never change the deal; 2. No names; 3. Never open the package. For the right price (and assuming he’s been given proper dimensions) he’ll get the job done, no questions asked. His ex-military skills also come in handy to ensure that his deliveries (or escapes) are clean – and look good. Although he’s not unaccustomed to breaking the law and aiding criminals, Frank has morals that betray the regularly iniquitous business practices of professional transportation, making him a useful getaway driver for heists but a potential opponent for conductors of more abominable activities. So when Wall Street (Matt Schulze) – a man whose symbolic moniker follows the no-names policy – hires him to transport a package that turns out to be a bound and gagged young Asian woman named Lai (Shu Qi), Frank’s mixed feelings get him involved in helping her uncover a smuggling operation run by gangsters who will stop at nothing to see him dead for his betrayal.

Frank is unusually prepared for every single situation, which makes his careful pre-planning more than just convenient. Scuba gear for a hasty underwater flight and the knowledge of truck routes for following enemy vehicles are the least of his uncanny abilities. Every scene is nothing more than a setup to get from one stunt location to the next, so it doesn’t take long for the viewer to realize that Frank’s constant, unlikely reappearances are beyond mere good luck. And during his journey from jail to office buildings to bus yards, he’s accompanied by irksome music that makes each coincidence noticeably more intentional.

The action itself is frequently amusing, with superb choreography and riveting martial arts fights, demonstrated with verve when the formidable protagonist kicks down doors to get to baddies, fends off axe attacks, or slickly maneuvers through massive oil fights. Additionally, Frank likes to lose his shirt during every other scene, volley with Shu Qi’s laughable dialogue, and deflect rockets with cookie trays (an outrageous gimmick from the theatrical trailer that never made it to the final cut). Though Statham is not a typical action star, he has a certain aura of machismo all his own, which would influence the creation of two more sequels (in 2005 and 2008) and provide him with further opportunities to be a Hollywood movie star. But what this particular role lacks is the delivery of silly yet catchy one-liners, which would normally ruin such a picture; here, several moments are in dire need of alleviated tensions through a well-placed sarcasm. Unfortunately, the only wit comes from a show-stealing bit part by Francois Berleand as police inspector Tarconi, whose storyline keeps annoyingly popping up as a relief from the nonstop action.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10