The Transporter is a serviceable Euro-trash action extravaganza, with a decent sense of humor and plenty of things that go boom — handguns, BMWs and seaside chateaus. But it doesn’t quite give you the same woozy exhilaration that the best action films leave in their wake.
It’s no surprise that The Transporter basically is a facsimile of last summer’s Kiss of the Dragon. Both films were co-written and produced by French action gearhead Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita). The far superior Kiss, though, had Jet Li at its disposal; in the film, Li displayed his awesome martial arts, but his quiet demeanor stood in contrast to his loud actions.
Here, we know up front that protagonist Frank Martin is a real tough guy — an ex-Special Forces stud turned mysterious courier who can shoot, run, drive fast and skydive with the best of them. There are no real contrasts or surprises with this character. British actor Jason Statham (Snatch) brings the trademark steely reserve to Frank but doesn’t have room for anything else.
There is a certain kitsch element, though, in watching a bald, burly Brit cracking heads kung-fu style. In a sequence of impressive scenes set in a bus garage, it appears Statham is doing the work himself. And the different “weapons” he uses (a front door, a car seat, motor oil, his own sweater) have the same novelty-humor kick of good Jackie Chan films.
The plot of The Transporter (something about illegal immigrants) meanders wildly, and Frank’s love relationship is defined mainly by how much he throws his paramour in and out of car trunks. But the action, while not jaw-dropping, is enough to elicit an appreciative nod of the head.