Posts Tagged ‘Transporter 2’

As a study in contrasts, and because it’s a guilty pleasure, let us examine the middle child of the mighty Transporter franchise, not entirely unexpectedly entitled Transporter 2. All the key personnel that made the first film so very special return for this 2005 sequel: Luc Besson writes and produces, Louis Leterrier directs, Cory Yuen choreographs the martial arts, and Jason Statham sweats a lot and battles to produce a convincing American accent.¬†

As the film opens, main man Frank Martin (Statham) has taken a break from his usual line as a getaway driver and underworld courier and is working as a chaffeur for a wealthy family in Miami, Florida (man of principle Frank may be, but he must have faked his references or something). All is not well as the husband (Matthew Modine, slumming it just a tiny bit) is a workaholic knob (but still a basically decent guy, as he works in drug enforcement) and his wife (Amber Valletta) is struggling with feelings for Frank (which, quite properly, he refuses to take advantage of, although this is possibly because he is – look, just keep reading). Frank is left to look after their young son.

Luckily enough, carnage ensues when suave mercenary Cellini (Alessandro Gassman) kidnaps the lad as part of a fiendish plot to undermine the international war on drugs, very nearly framing Frank for the deed in the process. With the FBI, local cops, and US Marshals all basically having their heads up their own bottoms, it falls to our hero to uncover the evil scheme and sort it all out. And if that means driving everywhere very fast, taking off his shirt, and kicking in crowds of stuntmen, well, a transporter’s gotta do what a transporter’s gotta do…

On one level this is a smart, slick, and confident sequel that knows its audience’s expectations well enough to play with them just a little. The movie opens with a reprise of the beginning of the original, with a neat twist and a fight sequence included just to make it clear that it’s business as usual here. There are some objectionably sentimental scenes between Statham and the kid but before very long the movie slams into top gear and stays there for the duration. Fashionable and a nuanced performer he is not, but Jason Statham is simply very good at this kind of thing: endlessly watchable, quietly charismatic, and almost always convincing in the martial arts sequences.

And yet, and yet. Transporter 2 is a perfectly efficient and confident action movie, but for me it doesn’t quite have the magic of the original film. At first I put this down to the fact that while the first film did a very good job of appearing to have been made ‘for real’ as far as most of its stunts were concerned, this instalment is stuffed with fairly indifferent CGI shots, and as a result the atmosphere created is much less involving.

I suppose you can say something similar about the story. The extraordinary thing for me about the first movie, particularly on first seeing it, was the way it basically consisted of a series of immaculately choreographed action sequences held together by one of the thinnest and least thought-through storylines I’d ever seen. It’s not that The Transporter‘s plot is silly: it’s just practically non-existent.

In contrast, Transporter 2‘s plot is rather complicated, but also utterly absurd, comic-book stuff about magic viruses and things like that. The tone is set by a sequence in which Frank has no end of bother trying to get away from a submachinegun-toting supermodel in lingerie (Kate Nauta) who later transforms into the pole dancer from Hell. It’s just very, very silly, obsessed with image rather than any kind of substance or plausibility (then again, as I’ve already mentioned this is a Luc Besson script, you could probably have taken that as read) and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t even make sense on its own terms. As an action movie, of course, this by no means makes it any less enjoyable.

One should probably mention the is-he-or-isn’t-he issue of Frank’s sexuality at some point in a review of this movie: director Leterrier is fond of going on about how Frank is actually gay, as demonstrated by his refusal to get it on with his employer’s wife – ‘it’s not who you are, it’s who I am,’ he growls by way of (rather vague) explanation. Certainly Frank’s legendary prissiness about his personal grooming and car support this idea, but (needless to say) Statham insists Leterrier never mentioned it to him, and it’s sort of undermined by the enthusiastically hetero pursuits Frank indulges in in the other two movies. Nice idea though.

Also nice is the presence in this movie of Jason Flemyng, who cheerfully overacts as a Russian germ warfare boffin in Cellini’s employ – just a shame he doesn’t get more to do, especially as he and Jason Statham appear to be having a private ‘who can do the silliest accent’ contest. Popping up from the first movie – and seemingly here mainly to establish some kind of connection with the original film beyond simply the presence of Statham in it – is Francois Berleand as Frank’s dodgy French mate Tarconi. He is basically just a comic relief Frenchman. I’m not sure any film has actually needed a comic relief Frenchman, but Transporter 2 departs so thoroughly from reality that you don’t really mind.

Am I coming across as at all ambivalent about this movie? If so, I think that reflects my feelings towards it quite well. On its own terms this is a fun, well-made, completely ludicrous action movie starring one of my favourite performers – it’s only as the sequel to one of my favourite, and most-watched films of the past decade that Transporter 2 is a little disappointing.

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