Jason Statham (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The One) stars as Frank Martin, the transporter who doesn’t leave anything out-of-place and does his job based on three essential rules. Predictably these rules get bent a bit when he encounters Lai on the job. Lai is played by the beautiful 26-year old Qi Shu who definitely has some screen presence, but basically has a functional role where she conveniently reveals character background to the audience and assists the protagonist before she’s predictably in trouble and needs assistance herself.
The remaining cast provides well-rounded talent for additional international appeal, and box office, and includes Matt Schulze (The Fast and the Furious, Blade 2) as the main antagonist (forget his name because it makes no sense) and Ric Young (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, TV’s General Hospital) who has a key antagonistic role later in the plot. These antagonists, especially the one played by Schulze, aren’t developed beyond their “look how bad I can be until I’m unceremoniously disposed of by the heroes” badguy function. The plot also makes their roles redundant.
For example, when Schulze’s character is introduced he’s seen assaulting an Asian woman poolside and later delves into more crime at a hospital. Though the hospital scene has a minimal function that reveals information about Frank, these scenes make an obvious point repetitive. You know they’re bad, let’s move on to more great action sequences.
The plot also suffers from a few clichés – the law enforcement connection, Tarconi played by veteran actor Francois Berleand, and the mysterious background of the protagonist that makes him so good and beating the bad guys – but still has enough originality to keep high audience interest. Berleand’s French accent muddles his English dialogue at times, so you may unfortunately tune him out even though what his character says is not terribly important since Frank carries most of the film and Tarconi is basically a supplemental character.
The main interest this film is the amazing action which has breaks of drama and romance, especially in the middle, but not too much where it slows the fast pace of the plot. The beginning action sequence rivals any of the greatest car chases on film, in this case robbers are along for the ride instead of behind the wheel which provides a unique perspective and weight to the role of the transporter. “Do something,” the robbers yell at Frank when they’re close to being caught.
Besides providing great action, the beginning sequence also provides a realistic explanation of why Frank would be naturally curious about next assignment. The film doesn’t quite duplicate the excitement of this extensive scene, but the remaining shorter action sequences come very close.
Experienced Hong Kong filmmaker/director Corey Yuen direction is so smooth and fluid also a great credit to editor Nicolas Trembasiewicz. It’s hard to believe The Transporter is his first feature film editing project. He translates the furious action mainly through medium shots instead of annoying you with too many close-ups that lose the characters in the frame as they’re fighting.
The bulked up Statham fights through fierce henchmen and obstacles during several extensive martial arts fighting sequences. The axe fight in the mansion and the warehouse fight near the ending were particularly well choreographed. The action sequences get great support from the high throttle music provided by composer Stanley Clarke (Romeo Must Die, Passenger 57). The music ranges from quick powered techno to orchestral mood music (the scuba scene music may remind you of James Bond) to hard-driving rock.
Recommended (*** out of four stars) and rated PG-13. Filmmaker/director Luc Besson co-writes the screenplay with screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen (Kiss of the Dragon, Fifth Element) and also produced.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler