For 92 minutes, "The Transporter," directed Corey Yuen (2001's "The One
"), assaults audiences with one spectacular stunt after the next. While a couple action sequencessuch as a climactic fight between a car and a truck on a swerving, cliffside roadhelp to pass the time, all of them are generic knockoffs of ideas and shots from more innovative filmmakers who beat Yuen to the punch.
The premise is about as arbitrary as these kinds of movies get. Jason Statham (2001's "John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars
") gets his first major action role as Frank Martin, a transporter who is hired on a case-by-case basis to deliver packages, no questions asked. When Frank betrays this rule and opens a package that holds the lovely and kidnapped Lai (Qi Shu), he and Lai instantly go to the top of criminal Wall Street's (Matt Schulze) hit list. While on the run, Lai recognizes Frank's hidden soft side and starts to fall in love with him.
It would be lying to deny that "The Transporter" is technically adequate and edited with enough aplomb to offer fleeting excitement. But to what end? Surely, a lot of time and money went into the extended car chase that opens the picture, but the fact that it has been done in the same fashion countless times takes away whatever tension and entertainment value it might have had twenty years ago. There is an inescapable emptiness that runs through nearly every moment of "The Transporter," whether it be during the action (approximately 90% of the film) or the dialogue (the other 10%). Loud, fast, and accustomed to an adult eating half of a Happy Meal, the film leaves the viewer questioning, "that's all there is?"
As buff hero Frank Martin, Jason Statham does his best to emulate the charisma of Vin Diesel in "XXX
," but his presence, and the movie, are no match for the latter team-up. As quick-thinking love interest Lai, Qi Shu is spunky and undeniably cute, if a shrill screamer whose English diction could use some practice. And Matt Schulze (2002's "Blade II
") lends his head baddie a semi-threatening coolness that meshes well with the generic tone.
Ultimately, there isn't much to say about "The Transporter" because director Corey Yuen and screenwriters Luc Besson (1994's "The Professional") and Robert Mark Kamen (2001's "Kiss of the Dragon
") don't have much to say, themselves. At the thirty-minute mark, the makers fool you into believing the film is aspiring to be the next "La Femme Nikita" or "The Professional." By the sixty-minute mark, you realize it was just a false alarm. The initial setup of Frank and Lai has an offbeat charm that is lost soon after. To Yuen, they are merely ragdoll pawns at the mercy of the impressive stunt coordinators. For the very fact that the film does generate more comprehensibility and general ability than the recent "Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever
," "The Transporter" is not the major chore it could have been to sit through. It's just a major waste.
©2002 by Dustin Putman