September 09, 2005

Transporter 2

Directed by Louis Leterrier Starring Jason Statham

Reviewed by Martin Tsai

The Transporter must have done well enough overseas to warrant a sequel, since it only made a measly $25 million at the domestic box office and the DVD pretty much headed straight for Wal-Mart's bargain bins. So, it's no wonder the studio didn't bother to lavishly promote or even come up with a new poster design for the North American release of Transporter 2. Those who liked its predecessor may be excited that the follow-up has shifted its action gear into overdrive, but some may be equally disappointed to learn that it has left credibility entirely in the dust and the sights of Jason Statham's chiseled torso and a bound-and-gagged Shu Qi in its rearview mirror.

It's three years later, and Statham's ex-commando-turned-chauffeur Frank Martin has transported himself from southern France to the southern United States. As a personal favour, he escorts the six-year-old son (Hunter Clary) of a prominent drug czar (Matthew Modine) to and from school every day. We know Frank is a big softie when he pulls the car forward to avert little Jack's eyes from the traumatic spectacle of his estranged parents arguing. Sooner than you can say Man on Fire, kidnappers snatch up little Jack while under Frank's watch. "You promised you wouldn't let anybody hurt me," teary-eyed Jack pleads. Now, to keep his promise, it's up to the everyman Bond to fight with fists, feet, guns, knives, hammers, syringes, cars, boats, a jet ski, a spiraling airplane, a garbage bin and an iPod.

Impressive action sequences rev up Transporter 2, especially the expected car tricks. One auto-dynamic stunt has Frank catapulting his Audi A8 above a crane to scrape off a bomb from underneath the chassis before it explodes. Statham delivers an array of mesmerizing gymnastics, such as leaping upward to escape a sandwiching head-on collision, and using a fire-extinguisher hose to lasso his adversaries. Since Frank is so resourceful, his enemies might wish they'd seized their chance to simply riddle him with bullet holes instead of planting a bomb under his car.

Following the Jet Li vehicle Unleashed, co-screenwriter/co-producer Luc Besson again teams up with his protégée, director Louis Leterrier, for Transporter 2. Intentional or not, their Unleashed was a genre-smart action flick that metaphorically scrutinized Hollywood's exploitation of martial-arts stars as trained animals. But Transporter 2 finds Besson borrowing from Tony Scott's aforementioned Man on Fire while revisiting his own The Professional (for the kick-ass guardian angel/babysitter theme) and La Femme Nikita (for the kick-ass femme fatale). The subplot involving an anthrax-esque biological weapon is about so four years ago, and it presents the film's most jarring logistic implausibility. Viewers will have to stick their heads out the window, leave their brains in the trunk and soak up the ridiculousness to really enjoy this ride.

Reprinted from WestEnder. © Copyright 2005 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.