The plot of The Transporter never extends beyond the borders of a video game story. Basically, if you need something - or someone - transported from one place to another, you drop a call to Ex-Special Forces operator Frank Martin (Jason Statham) and his "tricked-out" BMW to deliver the goods. But, remember - before you hire Mr. Frank for one of your mysterious and sometimes dangerous tasks - you must remember his three golden rules.
#1 - Never change the deal.#2 - No names - Frank doesn't like to get to friendly with his employers.#3 - Frank never looks in the package.
But, as we all know by now in movie land - rules are made to be broken. So, Frank's temptation gets the best of him when hired by a smarmy American known only as "Wall Street" (see Rule #2) to make a delivery. En route, he notices his package squirming in fast fashion and opens it up to find a beautiful Asian chick named Lai (Shu Qi) tied up inside - thus breaking Rule #3.
Alas, a beautiful and bound Asian girl does not assuage Frank from his job and he proceeds to complete the transaction with Wall Street (Matt Schulze - who resembles the bastard brother of Joshua Jackson with a goofy redneck mustache). But, the stakes turn deadly when Frank accepts a second job from Wall Street in the form of a simple briefcase - which leads to Frank's spiffy BMV being reduced to small bits and pieces by an anomalous CG explosion.
So, as predictable as Belushi on coke, Frank returns to Wall Street's bungalow retreat and kicks the crap out of a bunch of cronies ala Jet Li style, and ends up with the Asian girl in the backseat of his newly acquired getaway car from Wall Street's private garage. The movie then spirals into an endless parade of action sequences including house demolitions, ridiculous sexual motivators, high-octane car chases, an overabundance of sneering by Mr. Wall Street, the ubiquitous Asian bad guy with too much makeup on, more gunplay than a Joel Silver flick, and a ton of reasons for Jason Statham to take off his shirt and roll around in motor oil.
The brainchildren behind the screenplay are no other than action maestro Luc Besson (The Big Blue) and his co-conspirator Robert Mark Kamen - who collaborated previously on Besson's The Fifth Element and the Jet Li action flick Kiss of the Dragon. The big surprise is that even with these two notable screenwriters, the script devolves into a pair of cement boots that ultimately drags the entire production down into nonsensical oblivion. Besson's formulaic design screams of earlier works such as The Professional and La Femme Nikita. The emotionally empty male lead, the obvious Madonna/whore ingénue, and the smarmy crew of grease monkeys equipped with endless shoulder-mounted rockets and large-caliber machine guns in reckless pursuit of our heroes has finally grown stale and predictable, even in the hands of Besson.
One saving grace of the film lies in the excellent direction and martial arts choreography of Corey Yuen. Since his early days working with Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan, Yuen has developed a strong and successful directing with Asian films including two of Jet Li's best films, High Risk and The Bodyguard from Beijing. Yuen's tight, situational action sequences are fresh and often ingenius.
As well, Jason Statham is unexpectedly tackling the role of a high-profile action star with some success. A U.K. actor best known for his memorable work in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch - Statham has slowly crossed over into American films in the last year. The only problem is that he needs to fire his agent, because his current selection of U.S. films - including Ghosts of Mars and The One - were cinematic car wrecks. The multi-talented Statham - who holds years of training in boxing, martial arts, kickboxing, and scuba diving under his belt - displays enough cool demeanor and cocky attitude to drive Frank's furious antics to hint at believability.
Despite a plethora of solid action sequences and a decent storyline that provides enough gas to keep the engine running from scene to scene, The Transporter generates more belly laughs than intrigue in its haphazard character development and plot twists. In the end - the corny lines and difficulty of watching veteran Asian actress Shu Qi tackle English overshadows the entire film.
Gotta dance. Gotta transport.
Run time: 92 mins
In Theaters: Friday 11th October 2002
Box Office USA: $25.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $43.9M
Distributed by: Fox
Production compaines: TF1 Films Productions, EuropaCorp
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Fresh: 66 Rotten: 59
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Corey Yuen