Ever since he first appeared in the public in a big way in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1999) and Snatch, Jason Statham has made a decent name for himself as the newest unlikely action hero. While his balding pate doesn’t seem to invite the action hero status, he’s worked hard on becoming an action hero, and it’s paid off for him time and again.
While I liked him in films like The One and am eagerly anticipating the sequel to his insane Crank (2006), I never got a thrill out of his first trilogy, The Transporter (2002) series. While there were a few decent car chases and other action sequences, the plot never really thrilled me, and the dialogue was absolutely horrendous (“last night – that was real” still sticks in my mind as one of the cheesiest lines ever uttered on screen).
After the disaster that was The Transporter (2002), I wasn’t excited about seeing Transporter 2 (2005), and to this day have only caught bits and pieces on the movie channels. Still, even the bits I saw were better than the first film, so I held out hope the series could recover.
Then Transporter 3 was announced, and I approached it with some trepidation. While sequels can be better than the original, there are very few third films that manage to keep up with the first two (Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) being about the only one I can think of). Would this third film permanently bury the series, or would this be a rare case of third time’s the charm?
Jason Statham returns as Frank Martin, complete with his Audi. He does a decent enough job of making his way through the scenes, and his exchange of looks with newcomer Natalya Rudakova in one of the fight sequences is a fun toss-in, but it’s not up there with his best work. Instead, he’s the muscle of the pic, not the brains, and spends most of his time showing off his chest and breaking heads.
The other characters, from Natalya to returnee Francois Berleand and villain Robert Knepper don’t do much to help things along, either. Each plays their part, but none of them with a real passion for the character. Instead, their characters are a bit too cut and dried, and dull quickly.
The storyline probably has something to do with that. While there are a few new situations that are presented (an explosive bracelet keeps him from going more than a short distance from the car, for example), most of the rest is a bit old – and way too reminiscent of the first film. Sure, the fighting is fun, but they haven’t learned anything yet with the cheesy hook-ups. Almost as unbelievable as in the first film, Statham gets the girl not long into the film, and they suddenly form an irrational attachment that will force him to do anything he can to help her if he needs to.
It’s downright ridiculous. While there is a bit more lead-in this time (the looks they give one another during Statham’s first fight sequence), but going from even that little lead-in to hopping in the sack (or the car as the case may be) is just totally unbelievable, even for a no-brainer action flick.
Aside from that, there are a few decent points to the film, and the changes should be enough for fans of the series to get into this third film as well. For the majority of us, however, this one only gives glimpses of decency from Statham, mostly combined with the new plot twists (like the bracelet mentioned above), but those glimpses don’t totally overshadow the disappointment in this third attempt.
Even after three films, Statham’s The Transporter (2002) series still seems to be lacking something – and only makes us want to see him in something good. If you aren’t a fan of the series, skip this third installment and wait to see Statham in Crank: High Voltage (2009) next month.