Louis Leterrier’s “The Transporter 2” is less a movie than it is a live-action comic book, or perhaps a really wild videogame for you gamers out there. Jason Statham returns as Frank Martin, the “transporter” of the title, whose specialty is to, as the job title may imply, take things from Point A to Point B in a most professional manner. In the original “Transporter”, Frank made the mistake of opening his trunk and taking a peek at the item he was transporting. This time around he’s doing a favor for a buddy by chauffeuring around young tyke Jack (Hunter Clary) around sunny Miami , Florida .
Trouble rears its ugly head when a gang led by vile South American Gianni (Alessandro Gassman) and his right-hand assassin Lola (Kate Nauta) plots to kidnap young Jack and inject him with a dangerous virus for purposes to be revealed later in the movie. Despite Frank’s best efforts, Jack does indeed leave his protection, and it’s up to Frank to find him and save the day. Meanwhile, Jack’s mom Audrey (former model Amber Valletta) is going nuts, while Jack’s oft-absent father (Matthew Modine, far removed from starring roles) calls in the FBI. Keith David plays the head honcho of the FBI squad, who ends up doing all the bone-headed things all FBI agents do in action movies. A series of car chases, fistfights, and mano-a-mano duels between Frank and the two-fisted machinegun toting Lola ensues. Having fun yet?
Written by Luc Besson (“Leon”) and Robert Mark Kamen, the script for “Transporter 2” is less an actual movie screenplay than it is a reason to get star Jason Statham from one violent encounter (while he’s inside a car or on his feet) to another. Taking his cue from the script, director and Besson apprentice Leterrier (who also directed the first “Transporter”) shows just as much attention to logical plotting, which is to say he doesn’t even bother to make anything in “Transporter 2” logical. And so much better for the movie, which is very much the epitome of dumb and mindless, but if you saw the original and took a shot at the sequel, then you already know that, so what’s the use in complaining?
Star Jason Statham has certainly come a long way from small parts in Guy Ritchie movies (culminating in a starring turn in Ritchie’s recent “Revolver”), and if he keeps this up, he could very well become the next Hollywood action hero. That is, if he’s so inclined to follow this particular path, because he clearly has more acting ability than your usual would-be action hero. The man has charisma to burn, and I wouldn’t be surprise if the strong box office showing of “Transporter 2” leads to a “Transporter 3”, or at the very least, more action movie starring roles for Statham. I like Statham, I always have, and it’ll be a pleasure to see him in more ballsy action movies like “Transporter 2”.
For those who saw the original, the sequel has some funny moments courtesy of series continuity. The best comes in the form of Francois Berleand, who reprises his role as French Inspector Tarconi. Visiting Frank in Miami, Tarconi ends up saving the day on more than one occasion, and his constant reference to his job back home (as compared to his American counterparts) are good for some chuckles. Action choreographer Corey Yuen (“So Close”) stops the film’s constant fisticuffs just long enough to pay homage to the first film’s grease fight. Unfortunately Qi Shu, the leading lady of the first movie, is sadly absent from the sequel.
“Transporter 2” is more of a stunt film than a martial arts movie, as although Statham has proven to be physical and surprisingly agile enough to handle most of the film’s wild stunts, he’s still a big, muscle-bound Englishman. Which means Corey Yuen’s stuntmen does most of the work, which may explain why a South American villain like Gianni has an over abundance of Chinese goons at his disposal. There are a couple of fights that stand out, but the film’s highlight has to be Frank’s many encounters with the deadly Lola. Model Kate Nauta turns what should be pedestrian gunfights into something surprisingly sexy by strutting about the film’s battlefields in lingerie, ripped net stockings, and dripping black mascara. No wonder they put her on the film’s cover, and featured her almost as much as the film’s star in the ads. This is a breakthrough role if there ever was one, and you can look forward to bigger roles for the daring Ms. Nauta.
But if Lola was a standout villain, then the film’s main baddie is shockingly disappointing. Frank’s one-on-one with Gianni in an out of control private jet never sustains any energy, as although Gianni is shown to be a fearsome fighter in the beginning, he proves to be barely a match for Frank. It’s a shame that the filmmakers let an opportunity for a quick rewrite go by; the movie should have ended with a Frank versus Lola death match instead of a CGI-filled plane crash. There’s actually only one outstanding moment in the film’s final 10 minutes, and that has Frank speeding down a highway zipping past police cars already engaged in a car chase!
“The Transporter 2” is certainly wilder than the first movie, and clocking in at barely 70 minutes soaking wet, I dare say it’s actually better than the first. Free from the constraints of character and logic, “Transporter 2” zips along at a breezy pace, and the film works precisely because it knows it’s not doing Shakespeare. Anyone who complains about the dearth of intelligence with “The Transporter 2” deserves a good beating. Or perhaps a running over by Frank in his smooth (and apparently indestructible) black BMW. This is mindless brain candy at its best, and is nothing more, nothing less. Still, you have to wonder how better the movie could have been if Besson had done one last rewrite and kept Lola around just a little bit longer…
Louis Leterrier (director) / Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen (screenplay)
CAST: Jason Statham …. Frank Martin
Alessandro Gassman …. Gianni
Amber Valletta …. Audrey Billings
Kate Nauta …. Lola
Matthew Modine …. Mr. Billings
FranÃ§ois Berl’and …. Tarconi
Hunter Clary …. Jack Billings