If this isn’t the end of the Transporter, then I’ll be surprised, dismayed, and disappointed. Not only has Frank Martin pretty much failed to deliver on any of his recent jobs (do these know-it-all bad guys that keep hiring him actually ever bother to get references?), but Frank’s latest adventure, the quite frankly too awful for words “Transporter 3” leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Not only because everything about the film is by-the-numbers (you sort of expect that from a Luc Besson action movie, especially when said action movie has achieved full-blown action movie franchise status), but man oh man, the sheer level of awfulness that “Transporter 3” possesses defies logic. At this point, the only reason you should even continue watching these movies is if you’re a girl and you like your guys buff ala Jason Statham, or you’re a guy and, well, you ain’t so interested in the ladies, if you know what I mean.
“The Transporter 3” has one of those convoluted storylines that, had a character opened his or her mouth in the first 10 minutes to the right person (for instance, our hero), there wouldn’t be a need for the extra 90 minutes of people “investigating”. The plot, such as it is, has Frank Martin (Statham) once again being forced into duty by a bad guy with the distinctively generic American name of Johnson (Prison Break’s Robert Knepper, last seen playing a distinctively generic Russian bad guy in “Hitman). Frank’s latest forced-upon mission has him transporting a couple of bags to random locations in Europe, except this time there are complications: first, Johnson is not the trusting sort, and has put an explosive bracelet on Frank’s wrist, primed to blow should he wander too far away from his car; secondly, Frank now has a co-pilot in a Ukrainian party girl in a cocktail dress name Valentina (Natalya Rudakova), who seems to have no idea what’s going on – or if she did, she ain’t talking.
At this point in his transporting career, ol Frank’s been in tougher scrapes and faced tougher foes, which may explain why Besson and Kamen have decided to give Frank an honest to goodness love interest this time around, if just to throw a wrench into the formula. Unfortunately for the audience, the producer/writer duo chose poorly in newcomer Natalya Rudakova, a former model turned actress who seems to have learned her lines phonetically (odd, considering that she supposedly moved to New York from Russia when she was 17, and has lived there ever since), and spends the entire movie trying desperately to “act”. Matters are not helped by a script that insists on forcing us to invest in the romance, which includes some painful flirting dialogue between Frank and Valentina, a situation not the least bit made convincing despite odious love-dovey music whenever the camera focuses in on Rudakova’s face and its gazillion freckles. If having so many freckles on the screen at one point is not some kind of a cinematic record, I want a recount.
Even for fans of the previous two “Transporter” entries, the third installment will leave them wanting. The sole impetus behind the movies now seems to be finding absurd (re: they’re not really trying at all) reasons to get Jason Statham shirtless at least once every 30 minutes. This allows the female in the audience to drool over Statham’s ripped gym rat body, which, comically, is how Valentina drools over him during a garage fight. Of course, up until this point Valentina has been very cold to ol Frank, but a one-on-dozen battle with some thugs and ten minutes of shirtlessness later, she’s making all sorts of sexual overtures toward him. Now me, I would have rather she just told me what the hell was going on, but not our Frank. Nope. He’s too much of a gentleman for that, so we have to sit (and drive) along with the twosome as Frank attempts in vain to figure out what’s going on, something he could have solved had Valentina, you know, told him herself when they first met an hour ago.
Meanwhile, the audience must politely ignore the very intriguing possibility that Luc Besson hired Rudakova because he wanted to get in her pants, because let’s face it, she bears more than a passing resemblance to his ex-wife Milla Jovovich, who first showed up in Besson’s “The Fifth Element” with, coincidentally, striking orange hair. And did I mention that Milla Jovovich is also Ukrainian? You know, like the Valentina character, played by Natalya Rudakova, who also happens to be a former model from the Russia area? So when Valentina gets suddenly slutty with Frank, despite the world of trouble they’re both in (including, you know, those explosive bracelets?), should we be reading more into it? Luc? But I digress.
What’s left to say about “Transporter 3”? If you’ve seen the first two, then you already know what to expect – just less of it. Honestly, it has to be said that part three fails to follow the formula of “bigger and better”, and if anything, it certainly looks like director Olivier Megaton (love that name) and producer Luc Besson have decided to cheap out on the production. The movie isn’t entirely devoid of highlights, because there are some of those, too, albeit on a smaller scale. (The gag with the big rigs was kinda fun.) The film’s climactic battle onboard a train pretty much sums up the movie: familiar, small, and not nearly “big” enough for a franchise that has proven profitable enough that Besson and company are guaranteed to be in the black on opening day. I hasten to say that this looks like a direct-to-DVD action movie starring some nobody and shot in Europe because it’s cheaper over there, but you know, minus Statham, it could very well have been.
So if you’re a fan of the Transporter, then yeah, you might find something to like here, but I’m probably not overstating things by very much in saying that Statham is the only draw at this point, because it certainly isn’t the writing, acting, or choppy action choreography by Hong Kong action mainstay Corey Yuen, who has done much, much better work. Then again, I can’t say if the lack of credible action is Yuen’s fault or that of an overly medicated editor. Either way, the “Transporter” movies have always had two things going for it: Statham’s larger than life frame and take-no-shit character Frank Martin, and the outrageous and wild action the directors manage to pull off. “Transporter 3” has an abundant of the first, but is noticeably lacking in the latter. My advice is to rent the first two movies and call it a day.
Olivier Megaton (director) / Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen (screenplay)
CAST: Jason Statham … Frank Martin
Natalya Rudakova … Valentina
François Berléand … Tarconi
Robert Knepper … Johnson
Jeroen Krabbé … Leonid Vasilev
Alex Kobold … Leonid’s Aide
David Atrakchi … Malcom Manville