"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Movie Review: The Transporter

An ex-military man who now makes his living in the South of France as a transporter for all types of goods for bad guys, breaks one of his own personal rules of professional conduct, opens a contracted package and finds within...one Asian chick. Needless to say, the aforementioned bad guys aren't hip to our man breaking the rules and fiddling with their parcel, and prepare to blow his ass to kingdom come. A shirtless Jason Statham...ensues!

The idea behind any "popcorn" action movie is to provide audiences with a believable, charismatic "hero" and just enough over-the-top fun and action to make up for the lack of depth in its storyline. Some popcorn flicks actually manage to transcend the basic nugget of corn requirements, and are not only able to provide their audience with escapism galore, but a solid story and believable characters to boot (Die Hard is the ultimate example of such a film).

The Transporter doesn't check off all such requirements, but does provide enough cool, exciting action sequences to make up for its recyclable plot, dinky dialogue and lame bad guys. Another reason the film succeeds on some level is the presence of a new "action man", a dude who seems ready to join Vin Diesel as one of the few new action heroes of our day, a man who goes by the name of Jason Statham. Up until this film, Statham was satisfied in playing slick secondary characters in "guy movies", but he seems to have doubled his shifts at the gym for this role and showcases enough intensity, grit and balls (sounds like an order at Denny's), to make for an enjoyable 90+ minutes of fluff.

If you weren't a fan of this dude before, I see no reason why you wouldn't want to ride alongside him after the machismo he displays here. Good show, mate! The film also provides for a handful of groovy action sequences, starting with a frenetic car chase a la RONIN through the cobblestone streets of the French Riviera. In fact, the South of France provides for a gorgeous backdrop to the staple story.

Writer/producer Luc Besson knows his target audience as well as anyone and loads the film up with enough action, to keep folks jazzed during the tamer periods, hip-hop, to sell those soundtracks (not my groove) and kung-fu, ass-kickings, explosions and fire-power to quench any 15-year old male's cinematic thirst.

Unfortunately, the film doesn't try to be anything more than what it is, and despite the originality of some of its action scenes (I loved the "money shot" of Statham kicking through that door and the "oil" fight in particular), the plotline is as ho-hum as they come with a typical good-looking "bad guy" dressed in black with polished facial hair leading his disposable crew of bumbling side-kicks through the numbers of some idiotic "Asian slave trade" scenario. I did like how the bad guys actually took the time to paint shark faces on their missiles before launching them into Statham's home though-it's nice to know that some evil-doers take that extra pleasure in their work.

Things get even more melodramatic when another over-the-top bad guy, this time Asian (dressed in black with weird facial features), makes an appearance and brings along a ridiculous relationship with his daughter. Thankfully for us, Statham keeps his cool throughout, plays by his own rules, wears plenty of polished suits, ultimately takes off his shirt more times than Vin Diesel at a photo shoot and kicks bad guy arse left, right and even center. I also appreciated the chemistry between he and the subservient Asian chick, and might even have bought some of their "romance".

Of course, this movie isn't about the plot (which you'll forget as soon as the credits start to roll), the romance or the dialogue (most of which is serviceable at best), but about action, explosions and ass-kickings and if you're willing to sit through some less successful bits, like one of the most ineffectual cops this side of Frank Drebin, you will likely enjoy the goings-on limited by your expectations of what a movie like The Transporter is aiming to deliver.

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