(2008 ) Director: Olivier Megaton (really) | Writers: Luc Besson (The 5th Element, Leon), Robert Mark Kamen (The Karate Kid, Lethal Weapon 3)
The first Transporter film, a film I like to call Transporter 1, features a scene in which a missile is fired at the home of Frank Martin (Jason Statham) from about 100 feet away; yet Martin, having seen the missile approach from an upstairs window, is able to escape in a leisurely manner via elevator before the projectile levels his Mediterranean home. Clearly, the laws of time and space do not exist in the Transporter universe.
In the second Transporter film, the aptly titled Transporter 2, Martin dodges certain doom when he is able to drive up a makeshift ramp, flip his Audi A8 upside down in midair, and scrape a bomb from its undercarriage with a stationary hook hanging over the scene before the device explodes. Clearly, the laws of physics do not exist in the Transporter universe.
If the natural progression of things were followed, Transporter 3 would probably feature Martin in a breakdancing competition against a werewolf on the moon. Instead, the filmmakers behind the real Transporter 3 made the decision to go light on the unbelievable situations, and the resulting movie, while still marginally entertaining, is almost dull by comparison.
Statham reprises his role as Martin, an ex-special forces fighting machine who delivers unmentionable items for undesirable miscreants on a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” basis. Transporter 3 finds the unflappable Martin back in Europe, forced into driving a childish, befreckled Ukrainian pixie woman (Natalya Rudakova) cross-country for a shady American Lance Henriksen look-alike (Robert Knepper) with a penchant for shooting insubordinate underlings. The catch is that if Martin or his whiny cargo move more than 75 feet away from his car, the sweet exploding bracelets on their arms will blast them to smithereens.
The familiar plot isn’t really a problem; what’s lacking, however, is a concrete sense of style. Where the first and second films looked as unique as their balletic action sequences played (thanks to visually forceful directors Corey Yuen and Louis Leterrier), Transporter 3 presents itself as a choppily-edited, more character-driven espionage thriller, as if awesomely-named rookie director Olivier Megaton had decided to cash in on any leftover Jason Bourne hoopla. But though it’s cut like a Bourne film, Transporter 3 is still, at heart, the same old mindless movie about guys kicking each other in the face and driving their cars into trains, with nothing close to depth, artistry, or social commentary appearing onscreen. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
But the most frustrating thing about Transporter 3 is its dearth of the sort of over-the-top spectacle that upgraded the first two films from “stupid” to “stupid but fun.” The refreshingly pretense-free Statham chugs along as he always does in his expressionless way, and several of the fight scenes are decently inventive, but there just isn’t the sort of jaw-dropping disregard for reality that made the first two installments so enjoyable. Breaking stale movie laws in the name of entertainment is what put the otherwise-forgettable Transporter franchise on the map to begin with; Megaton’s refusal to let the series become any more ridiculous has dragged it into the territory of the forgettable.
Rating: Two and a Half of Five Stars