Jason Statham as Frank Martin
Natalya Rudakova as Valentina
François Berléand as Tarconi
Robert Knepper as Johnson
Jeroen Krabbé as Leonid Vasilev
David Atrakchi as Malcom Manville
Yann Sundberg as Flag
Eriq Ebouaney as Ice
David Kammenos as Market Driver
Silvio Simac as Mighty Joe
Usually stuff like this gets mercifully relegated to the five dollar bin at Blockbuster or the 2 A.M. slot on HBO next to most recent Steven Seagal masterpiece. But “The Transporter” series has managed to gather enough of an audience for Lionsgate to inflict it on us every so often, and it looks like it’s that time again.
Jason Statham stars again (and I use the Mystery Science Theater definition of ‘starring’ in that the camera is pointed at Jason Statham most of the time) as courier Frank Martin. The money must be pretty good because after his last two outings you’d think he might have retired considering how good the odds are of him being forced into doing some villains dirty work for them. But there’d be no movie otherwise, and he soon finds himself carting around a pair of duffel bags and a surly Ukrainian party girl (Natalya Rudakova) in a blackmail plot that’s too dull to bother explaining. To make sure there’s no funny business, he is forced to wear a device that will detonate if he gets more than fifty feet from the car.
Despite the fact that series originator Louis Letterier has moved on to greener pastures (replaced by the aptly named Olivier Megaton) everything about this “Transporter” is pretty much the same as the others. A lot of that can be laid at the feet of writer/producer Luc Besson. Besson is talented visual craftsman, but as a writer seems inflicted with a permanent case of arrested development. He’s been recycling the same fifteen-year-old adolescent fantasy since “The Professional”; a beautiful young woman finds herself in a great deal of trouble, and must be saved by the superhero/everyman she has recently crossed paths with. Of course that sounds a little vague, but in experience the fingerprints of Besson on a production are immediately noticeable, especially in the look and screen personality of the female lead-as young as possible without quite being icky so that he can play up a mixture of innocence and sexuality. Besson has managed to make something out of this plot before, and he keeps trying variations on it, but a film getting only the writer half of his talents is being done no favors.
The beautiful young woman this time around is newcomer Natalya Rudakova, who I assume was picked for her looks, because every time she opens her mouth to speak I’m filled with an uncontrollable urge to beat my head against a wall. That may not entirely be her fault though; Besson and long-time writing partner Robert Mark Kamen have given her some of the worst dialogue I’ve heard, even by action movie standards.
The rest of it is about what you’d expect as well; car chases and the odd bit of kung fu from returning choreographer Corey Yuen, including one bit stuck inside a flashback during the film’s opening exposition. It’s horribly awkward to put it mildly. And much drabber than previous installments. Paris and Miami have been replaced by backwoods Hungary and Romania, which are probably a lot cheaper to film in, but one wooded road looks pretty much the same as any other. There is one cleverly done sequence where Frank’s car is stolen and he must catch it before he explodes, but the others are imminently forgettable. And except for Frank jumping his car from one moving train to another, the all out lunacy of the last film has been jettisoned as well. Which is probably a good thing, but they’ve it replaced with a solemnity of purpose a film like “Transporter 3” is far too shallow to support. There’s no need to go back to blowing up helicopters with handguns, but there must be some sort of middle ground.
Still, you know exactly what kind of movie this is. If that’s your cup of tea, more power to you. You’re going to get exactly what you expect out of it. And if it’s not, don’t bother.