The Transporter Review

In The Transporter, Jason Statham makes his bid to join the new crop of 21st century action heroes which already includes Vin Diesel and The Rock. The Cockney geezer from Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, who looks like a cross between Bruce Willis and the Mitchell brothers from Eastenders, may seem like an odd contender and I confess I was sceptical, but his tough, no-nonsense attitude and self-deprecating sense of humour won me over. He certainly looks the part, pumped up like Stallone and pulling off the stunts and martial arts convincingly enough.

Statham plays Frank Martin, an ex-soldier living in the South of France, where he earns a living as a freelance driver for the European underworld. Frank is a man with no morals and three unbreakable rules - never change the deal, no names and never look in the package. After demonstrating his skill behind the wheel in an opening chase through the streets of Nice, he's hired to make a delivery for some shady characters, no questions asked. By accident, he discovers that the bag he's carrying contains a young Chinese woman (Qi Shu) but Frank's a professional and he finishes the job. Unfortunately the gangsters who hired him find out he's seen the girl and, after an attempt on his life fails, he and his package end up on the run together.

Like its title character, The Transporter does exactly the job it's expected to do. It isn't perfect - it sags in the middle and is let down by a weak pair of villains - but, for the most part, this is a slick, efficient and unpretentious B-movie with just the right balance of drama and comedy, much of the latter provided by François Berléand's dry French detective. There are some inventive action scenes, well staged by Chinese director Cory Yuen, including a terrific fight in a bus depot and a climactic chase that wouldn't shame a Bond film.

It looks great too, with its sunny French locations, luxury German cars and sexy co-star Qi Shu, who may not speak English very well but is extremely easy on the eye. Shu has made some racy films in Hong Kong and when it comes to her love scene with Statham, you'll curse the producers' decision to go for a PG-13 rating in America. Why is it that teen comedies can be rated R but action films have to be PG-13? As it is, The Transporter is far too violent for children and deserves the harsher 15 certificate the BBFC have slapped on it.

I also wish Statham hadn't played the Transporter with an American accent. There's no need for it as Frank is never identified as an American, just a foreigner, so I can only assume it was based on the assumption that US audiences don't want to watch British action heroes. Tell that to the producers of Die Another Day, which has grossed over $150 million in the States. Statham's Yank accent is not as bad as it was in The One but it's still a distraction. There's something about Cockney accents - actors from elsewhere can never quite do them (remember Don Cheadle's Dick Van Dyke impression in Ocean's Eleven?) while London actors as good as Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins can never make you believe they're from anywhere else.

A word about Luc Besson's involvement: the ad campaign implies that he directed The Transporter ("from the maker of Leon and Nikita") when in fact Besson produced the film and co-scripted with his Fifth Element partner Robert Mark Kamen. Since Joan Of Arc, Besson has put his directing career on hold to become a prolific producer of French-made action movies, his credits including Kiss Of The Dragon and the Taxi series. He's to be commended - it's refreshing to see a European film-maker competing with Hollywood instead of complaining about it or emigrating there.

Overall

6

out of 10

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