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A film that actually succeeds on action and special effects alone
on June 24, 2006
I'm not a huge fan of action movies, and I really didn't have high hopes for this one, but The Transporter turned out to be a pretty enjoyable flick. The story, the action, and the characters are all held together by the cinematic equivalent of Crazy Glue, but somehow that doesn't really matter all that much. This movie is really all about the action, which comes at you almost non-stop. It pushes the envelope of realism to the breaking point a few times, but it's unusual and therefore interesting. Jason Statham is basically a one-man wrecking crew, and he has a style all his own (which lies somewhere in between traditional martial arts and basic street thug tactics). It's quick and intense and, most of all, purely entertaining. I've never seen a fight such as that waged on an oil-covered surface by Frank and an assembly of goons. It's just one example of a slight comic touch that seems to define much of the action and special effects -- you will witness several "oh, come on!" moments in this film.
We don't learn a whole lot about Frank Martin (Jason Statham). We know he is ex-military and that he currently earns his living transporting dubious goods. He's a meticulous perfectionist who lives by a few simple rules -- or at least he did, until his current job came along. It should have been simple -- pick the bag up here, drive it to there, deliver it, and go home 40 Gs richer. A flat tire changes all that, as he can't help but notice the bag resting atop his spare tire in the trunk is moving. Enter Lai (Qi Shu), undoubtedly the most attractive piece of cargo he's ever transported. Now you might expect Frank to let the girl go -- but Frank always honors his deals. That would have been the end of the story if his client hadn't double-crossed him in the end. They really shouldn't have made Frank angry.
As luck would have it, though, Lai seems to have established some sort of bond with Frank. Coming to the aid of a damsel in distress isn't really part of his nature, but Lai shows no compunction to flee from this man who was himself less than kind to her. She tells him a story of Chinese citizens being shipped via packing crate for lives of slavery, and he eventually gets involved in the whole mess -- but only after those same guys come calling in a most direct fashion. There's a weird dichotomy between Frank and the local police investigator that moves the plot along to its conclusion, which is actually a good thing since the slave trade story tends to meander a bit on its own.
Frankly, I don't find Jason Statham charismatic at all, although he's certainly efficient at what he does. Qi Shu, on the other hand, breathes the only signs of life into a film that would pretty much stagnate without her. This really is quite an unusual film. It makes clear from the very start that you can't take it seriously, and the basic story is a rather muddled affair, yet it succeeds largely in terms of its action alone. That isn't how things are supposed to work -- yet I can't deny that I found The Transporter quite entertaining.