Should I Watch..? Transporter 3
What's the big deal?
Transporter 3 is an action thriller film released in 2008 and is the second sequel to The Transporter. As before, Jason Statham plays professional driver Frank Martin who prides himself on delivering goods with a no-questions-asked policy but who constantly falls foul of the wrong people. The film marks the debut of Russian Natalya Rudakova who was working as a hairdresser in her native New York when she was encouraged to audition for the film by co-producer and co-writer Luc Besson. The film also features series regular François Berléand as well as Robert Knepper and veteran Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbé. Despite mixed reviews, the film became the most successful entry in the series so far with global takings in excess of £106 million. However, the film series was rebooted in 2015 with The Transporter Refuelled with actor Ed Skrein replacing Statham as Frank Martin. Therefore, it would appear that this would be Statham's last appearance in the series.
What's it about?
Having returned to France in semi-retirement, professional driver Frank Martin has trained up a new Transporter to eventually replace him while he spends his days fishing peacefully with his old friend Inspector Tarconi. However, after recommending his replacement Malcolm Melville to prospective employers, Frank's quiet life is shattered after Malcolm crashes into Franks house, mortally wounded. As the paramedics take Malcolm away, a semi-conscious girl wakes up in the back seat and warns Frank not to take her out of the car. Shortly afterwards, Malcolm's ambulance blows up while Frank is knocked out by unknown assailants.
Frank then wakes up and finds himself pressed into service by those who came asking for him before - goons in the service of shadowy Ecocorp boss Johnson. Frank is asked to drive the girl, Valentina, to Budapest while unbeknown to Frank, her father - EU Environment Minister Leonid Tomilenko - is blackmailed into allowing numerous cargo ships carrying deadly toxic waste to dock. As insurance, Frank and Valentina are fitted with an explosive bracelet that will detonate if they venture beyond 75 feet of Frank's treasured Audi and Johnson's men are never far behind...
Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen *
Release Date (UK)
5th December, 2008
Action, Crime, Thriller
What's to like?
Those viewers used to the unique world that the Transporter films inhabit will be used to the movie-logic that pervades the film's atmosphere. The baddie has every eventuality covered from his base of communications, can summon henchmen in the middle of nowhere in a matter of minutes and endless phones to talk to various people when surely, he could just withhold the number. Regardless, Transporter 3 continues the series' trademark goofiness by offering the usual mix of high-speed action, brutal kung-fu fights and Statham's unflappable good guy pursuing the baddies with unstoppable force.
However, there are signs that they are trying different things here. The film isn't anything like as hyperkinetic as Transporter 2 but fills in the gaps with dialogue and characterisation, for once. Frank's stone-cold heart begins to slowly thaw as he falls for Valentina's care-free brand of hedonism, permanently dispelling previous director Louis Leterrier's assertion that Frank Martin was the first gay action hero in movies (obviously he forgot about the love scene from the first film). Knepper's villain is also much deeper than the usual thugs who pop up in the series while the film's dual-story approach is a bold move for what has traditionally been a straight-up but disposable action flick.
- Luc Besson spotted Rudakova on her way to work in New York and he offered to pay for 25 acting lessons for her over a six-month period in Paris before auditioning for the role of Valentina.
- Knepper was inspired by Ernest Hemingway over the look of his character. He even wrote a back story for Johnson, suggesting that he grew up in a small town in the States before graduating from Yale or Harvard. As a result, Johnson had a certain sophistication about him and believed in the good of his actions.
- This is the only film in the series so far to have been nominated for any award - at the European Film Awards and MTV Movie Awards in 2009. It failed to win either, though.
What's not to like?
And that's the problem - fans of the series expect... no, demand non-stop action linked together with the flimsiest of scripts. Whenever Transporter 3 cuts away to the Minister's briefing room, the film stop generating any interest at all - we're not interested in the moral torment of a man debating whether to sign some declaration or not. What we want to see if Statham's chiselled physique kick the crap out of random henchmen and we simply don't see that often enough.
Speaking of Statham, there is a curious look in his eyes that suggests that he's not really feeling that enthused for the picture. The character of Frank, who is essentially a tuxedo away from being James Bond or a trench-coat and sunglasses away from Neo, is so powerful that the film doesn't generate any tension at all - hell, machine-gun fire doesn't even dent the back of his precious Audi. The product placement is rampant once again and just as daft - check out the previously empty road Frank races some baddies along which suddenly is blocked by two enormous trucks! That Audi must be as unstoppable as Statham is! Lastly, Rudakova's debut is arguably one to forget - it's unusual to see a leading female part played by someone covered with freckles but I hope Monsieur Besson kept the receipt for all those acting lessons.
Should I watch it?
After the utterly bonkers, action-packed Transporter 2, the series comes back to Earth with a bump in Transporter 3 which tries its hardest to turn itself into a more meaningful action experience. But with a dull story, a silly gimmick, an uninvolving leading lady and unenthusiastic leading man, the film will best be remembered instead for being Statham's probable final outing as one of Hollywood's shallowest action movie characters. It promises much but fails to deliver an action movie that really stands out.
Great For: Natalya Rudakova's life story, Audi, female fans of Jason Statham
Not So Great For: fans of the first two movies, action fans, cliché spotters
What else should I watch?
It has become apparent that since The Transporter took everyone by surprise back in 2002 that the formula has gradually gotten weaker the more it gets distilled. While the first film was a derivative but enjoyable B-movie, Transporter 2 completely forgets to tell a story and instead has Statham face off against a genuinely unhinged-looking supermodel wearing pink lingerie and not much else. Statham has so little acting to do that his Audi manages to steal the show.
Besson seems to have an endless supply of films popping into his mind although as time goes on, it would seem that genuinely good ideas are becoming rarer. As the director of one of my favourite films (Léon: The Professional), Besson will always have a place close to my heart but films written or produced by him such as Taxi, Colombiana and Unleashed are riddled with hackneyed clichés. Even his successes like Taken and the parkour-inspired District 13 aren't considered brilliant examples of screenwriting but it doesn't seem to stop punters going out to see his films.
© 2016 Benjamin Cox