Transporter 2 Review
I was a fan of The Transporter, the French action film from 2002 which starred Jason Statham as an ex-special forces tough guy working as an underworld driver. It was a good-looking, fast-moving, tongue-in-cheek B-picture and Statham made a persuasive action hero. It's a shame to report three years later that the sequel is a big disappointment. Despite a still-effective Statham, a larger budget and a change of scenery to sun-drenched Florida, Transporter 2 is second-rate stuff: derivative, forgettable and sloppily produced. It feels like a direct to video effort, the kind of thing Seagal and Van Damme have been reduced to making, rather than a major action film which briefly held the number one spot at the American box office.
Frank Martin (Jason Statham) and his trusty black Audi are in Miami, where Frank is chauffeur and bodyguard to the young son of America's drug-enforcement chief... Er...hold on a second there. Is this the same character Statham played in the original film? The amoral career criminal who'd rather see a man shot in the head than break his rule about overcrowding his car? Now he's driving kids to school? Okay, Frank developed a conscience over the course of the first movie but it's a bit much to accept that he's turned into Vin Diesel in The Pacifier and he's bonding with small children. How would a guy like Frank even get a job driving for a top American politician? Aren't there security checks? Transporter 2 is scripted by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen who also wrote its predecessor but it bears all the hallmarks of an unrelated screenplay awkwardly adapted to fit the character.
Back to the plot. Frank's charge is kidnapped from under his nose and held for ransom by a pair of sadistic Eurotrash criminals played by Alessandro Gassman and Kate Nauta. This being a Luc Besson production, the lovely Ms Nauta spends nearly every scene modelling the Victoria's Secret spring collection, carrying a pair of machine pistols and scowling while sporting more black eyeshadow than Marilyn Manson.
Incidentally, isn't it curious that French filmmakers and a British star have made a film with American heroes (Statham uses a Yank accent) and European villains? It's pointless calling Hollywood xenophobic if this is what Europeans come up with.
Once again, back to the plot. Now that Frank has screwed up royally, someone finally thinks to look into his background, his dodgy past is revealed and he becomes the prime suspect in the kidnapping. With the Miami PD hot on his tail, Frank sets out to clear his name, rescue the kid and unravel the conspiracy behind the abduction.
Let's not worry too much about the plot, which is basically a couple of episodes of 24 strung together. The plot is just an excuse for the action scenes, as it was the first time around. The real problem here is that the action scenes were an awful lot better the first time around. The Transporter had some pretty cool set pieces which stick in my mind three years after seeing it: the opening car chase, the rocket attack on the house, the fight in the warehouse, the climactic truck chase. I'm struggling to remember the sequel's highlights two days after seeing it. It's just generic chasing and fighting, all too obviously trimmed for a family-friendly rating in America.
The only memorable moments are some silly and poorly integrated CGI effects, which stay in your head for all the wrong reasons. The exploding helicopter and the out of control Lear jet look like they could have been animated with a program you could buy from PC World. Even those are topped by Frank's method of removing a bomb attached to the undercarriage of his Audi, which has to be seen to be believed. There's enjoyably daft and then there's taking the piss. This crosses the line.
Transporter 2 was made by some very gifted people. Writer / producer Luc Besson previously collaborated with director Louis Leterrier on Unleashed (aka Danny The Dog), which is one of the best action films I've seen this year. It's difficult to believe this half-hearted knock-off is the work of the same men. Besson has become one of the most prolific movie producers in the world. Perhaps his workload is affecting the quality of the films.
Jason Statham remains one of the most charismatic British leading men. He does the macho, man-of-few-words thing that Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis do and he can survive the comparison. His no-nonsense performance is the only aspect of this movie which escapes criticism. Well, you could quibble about his American accent but besides that it's only his questionable choice of projects that lets him down. Revolver and Transporter 2 are forgivable mis-steps but what is he doing taking the lead in the notorious Uwe Boll's forthcoming film of Dungeon Siege?