The Transporter (2002) Movie Review

Movies like “The Transporter” lives and dies by its own set of rules, and an innovative screenplay doesn’t figure anywhere into that equation. Co-written and produced by French auteur Luc Besson (“Leon”), “The Transporter” is most interested in how many ways, or what type of difficult situations, it can put its main character in; all the better to come up with cool ways to get him out of it.

Jason Statham (“The One”) stars as Frank Martin, the transporter of the title, whose job is to transport merchandise (be it a suitcase or bank robbers) between locations. Frank operates by a set of personal rules that he never breaks, and one of those rules is that he never, ever opens the package. Never, that is, until Frank is contracted to transport Lai (Qi Shu), a Chinese woman stuffed inside a carryon bag. Needless to say, Frank subsequent breaks his own rule and opens the package, discovers Lai, and becomes a target for the people who hired him!

The plot for “The Transporter” really is that simple. About halfway through the film, screenwriters Besson and Mark Kamen (“Kiss of the Dragon”) attempts to insert a subplot about the smuggling of Chinese aliens into France, but the whole thing is not worth bothering with. The screenplay doesn’t really get into it, and as a result we don’t really care about it. The real thrust of “The Transporter” is groovy camera angles and elaborate fight sequences, both of which it does well.

The camerawork is by director Louis Leterrier, but the action is by longtime Hong Kong action choreographer Corey Yuen (“Avenging Fist”). It’s not hard to guess who did what because Yuen has inserted a lot of his trademark fighting style into “The Transporter”, clearly marking his presence in certain scenes. It’s Yuen’s signature moves when Statham’s Frank battles Wall Street’s army of thugs in the tight confines of a bus depot, or in a mansion’s cramp hallways. The rest could be credited to co-director Leterrier, even though the movie boasts Yuen’s name as director in its Stateside advertising.

Co-star Qi Shu (“Gorgeous”) acquits herself well as the spunky package that turns Frank’s life upside down. Shu’s Lai figures prominently into the movie’s throwaway subplot about the smuggling of Chinese aliens, but the actress is mostly around for eye candy, which she is more than capable of doing. Ric Young (“Dragon”) shows up as Lai’s father, a Chinese businessman in cahoots with Schulze’s Wall Street. The less said about Schulze (“Blade 2”) the better. In fact, Schulze was such a forgettable villain that I had to consult the credit listing for his character’s name!

When it comes down to it, “The Transporter” is best summed up by its fast-paced and action-packed trailer. The movie has a couple of very exciting action sequences, although the ending seems to go on for way too long. Clocking in at just over 80 minutes, “The Transporter” wastes very little time with story and character motivations. Frank Martin, we learn, is an ex-military Brit living in France. He’s also friends with a local French cop (Francois Berleand), though how the two came to know each other is a mystery. For that matter, I’m still unclear as to why the cop seems to trust Frank so much, despite the fact that two cops were murdered while bound and gagged inside the trunk of Frank’s car!

It goes without saying that “The Transporter” is a mindless action drone. It has a lot of style and Statham plays the cool and hardboiled tough guy well. Beyond that, there’s really nothing about “The Transporter” that would please anyone expecting more. Despite knowing what I would be getting going into the film, I was still somewhat disappointed by what little of it there is.

Louis Leterrier, Corey Yuen (director) / Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen (screenplay)
CAST: Jason Statham …. Frank Martin
Qi Shu …. Lai Kwai
Matt Schulze …. Wall Street
François Berl’and …. Tarconi
Ric Young …. Mr. Kwai

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