(2008)2.5Jeremy WheelerLike clockwork, the Transporter series keeps on tickin' and delivering all of the kicks, jabs, quips, and explosions one has come to expect from the franchise. Though this third installment is not quite as nuts as the second film, it's nevertheless firmly set in the same ridiculous mold. Fans of tongue-in-cheek tough-guy cinema will appreciate the goods on display here -- even if they find it a bit forgettable afterward. This time, producer/screenwriter Luc Besson is back to his old tricks, adding a young female into the equation and letting the film coast on the shaky chemistry between her and Jason Statham. To be sure, though, this is still a succession of films that understands the power of hard kicks, scene-chewing villains, and a sense of fun that continues to be a refreshing change of pace in action cinema's current dour landscape.
That's not to say that Transporter 3 is foolproof -- far from it. As great as it is to have an action star who can hold his own when it comes to a bare-knuckled fist-puncher, Statham's moves (under the keen eye of fight choreographer Corey Yuen) are, more often than not, obscured by frantic editing that doesn't allow the audience to fully appreciate the fisticuffs on display. Equally, one could count on any establishing shot to have the same sort of needless zip-bam-pow editing. As with its Bond action brethren of the same year, Quantum of Solace, it seems that the filmmakers have stooped to copying the frenetic style of the times instead of opting for more traditional cutting techniques that benefited their predecessors so well. Even so, a little Statham charisma goes a long way -- and thankfully there are more than a few over-the-top moments to make this entry noteworthy.
Surprisingly, much of the flick's running time is dedicated to the one-on-one scenes of the hero and his "package" -- the lithe Ukrainian femme Valentina (played by newcomer Natalya Rudakova). Moviegoers are made to swallow not only a fair amount of banter between the two, but forcibly ingest the schmaltzy romantic subplot of it as well (invariably putting a spin on the series' gay subtext, for sure). Especially of concern is Valentina's hard-to-decipher dialogue, which, if one can get over the thick accent, is rife with quirky character work that's downright laughable.
That said, there's little use tearing Transporter 3 down. Questionable style aside, it does what it sets out to do -- entertain. With crazy car stunts, one ludicrous bike chase, along with the firm grasp that it's always best to have the hero fight the biggest guy last, this third installment should tide viewers over until they can get their next Euro-tinged action spectacle. Let's hope next time the reins aren't handed over to a director and editor whose biggest accomplishment before this was working on the Timothy Olyphant mess Hitman.
Strong-armed into transporting the kidnapped daughter of the head of the Environmental Agency for the Ukraine from Marseilles to Odessa, skilled wheelman Frank Martin (Jason Statham) enlists the aid of Inspector Tarconi (François Berléand) in accomplishing the treacherous assignment in this action-packed installment of the popular action series produced by Luc Besson (who also co-scripts). Frank isn't exactly thrilled with his latest assignment, but when his employer turns up the pressure, he has little choice but to deliver. His cargo is a feisty young girl named Valentina (Natalya Rudakova) -- who just happens to be the daughter of Leonid Vasilev (Jeroen Krabbé), the powerful top dog of the Ukraine EPA. Now, as Frank makes his way through Stuttgart and Budapest on the road to the Black Sea, Vasilev's men besiege his car from all sides, and his cynical young passenger gets a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome. As the driver and his cargo grow increasingly close, they both realize that making even a single mistake could cost them dearly.