The third Transporter film pretty much reveals the level of disposable fodder co-writer/executive producer Luc Besson has been cranking out for the past 8 years.
Much like Taxi (1998), the first Transporter (2002) film was extremely fun, silly, and very successful, which is why Besson followed through with a sequel that ended up being just as fun, if not a little thinner on plot and characters. If the Taxi franchise demonstrated anything, it’s that Besson’s subsequent sequels become more juvenile and insulting in the way basic plot points and distracting montages are offered to audiences with the arrogant assumption that ‘fans will watch anything.’
Transporter 3 will rent on DVD, but it’s a classic example of Besson being utterly lazy, and both him and co-writer Robert Mark Kamen are incapable of creating any sparkling dialogue or scenes when the two incompatible leads spend most of the time stuck in a car; see, the hook is, if they stray too far from the black Audi, both the driver (Jason Statham) and the ‘package’ (Natalya Rudakova) blow up.
Even one accepted the weak dialogue, the car scenes (and pretty much all scenes between the two actors) fail because there’s absolutely no chemistry between Statham and novice Rudakova.
Kamen and Besson have given the film a slight Saw spin by having a pair of seemingly disparate characters forced into a desperate situation that will potentially kill both, but it only takes a few minutes for us to realize Rudakova is the daughter of a blackmailed Russian minister, and the key package the Transporter has been forced to ferry across Europe to avoid detection – a revelation the Transporter gets in the film’s last act.
Had the daughter been smart or given some depth, the eventually relationship between driver and passenger would’ve worked, but as with each Transporter film, women are either bitchy hitwomen, or moronic screaming ingénues who babble and scream and get smacked around; their femininity, as filtered through Besson’s eyes, is a roadblock for every leading male character, and they’re often responsible for added threats due to their stupidity or feeble judgement.
Besson has tried to tackle strong female characters; La femme Nikita (1990) features his strongest adult woman, and The Professional (1994) his most compelling ingénue, but if one examines his B-movie entries – or even A-level material like Le Grand Bleu (1988) – his depiction of women are whiny stick figures that pout, tease, and babble like high school twits.
In the second and third Transporter films, the women fulfill Besson’s taste for leggy models, as well as a fetish for pale skin crayoned with dark eye makeup and smeared blush; the hitwoman in #2 and the package in #3 look like slutty prom queens who forgot to put the hardtop on before entering a car wash.
Olivier Megaton (director of the wretched and incoherent Red Siren) was hired to further the franchise’s kinetic visual style, and while the images are beautiful, the action scenes are edited with a compressed frame rate that gives them a heightened cartoon sensibility.
That creative choice is a serious blunder because every piece of fine choreography by Corey Yuen has been hacked up into flash edits and strobing frame rates; if time is spend designing perfectly fine action and fight scenes, why render them as impressionistic comic book panels that blur Yuen’s detail?
Composer Alexandre Azaria returns again for his second Transporter score, but he’s oddly chosen to hold back on his character theme, which further lessens one’s ability to bond with a beloved character that’s been weakened by lazy writing. Much like #2, Azaria plays the relationship scenes straight, and his switch to full orchestra is fluid and refined – but it also transforms Statham and Rudakova’s romantic scenes into moments of bathetic, clumsy bonding.
Equally ridiculous is the Transporter’s old ally, Marseilles Inspector Tarconi (François Berléand) crossing international jurisdictions and getting the ear of a prominent Russian minister (utterly wasted Jeroen Krabbé), for whom he supervises - from Russia - the return of his kidnapped daughter.
Transporter 3 works for most of its first third until it’s clear the fight scenes are on hold for Besson and Kamen to coordinate their story streams of kidnappers, Transporter, blackmailed minister, and French Inspector on the go; most of what transpires around the midsection consists of in-car dialogue and an abbreviated car chase, but where the film grinds to a halt is the morning after the Transporter and his package have bonded: from then on, every plot point is perfunctory, and it becomes very hard to care for two utterly incompatible leads.
The DVD from Maple / Lionsgate is bare bones, and contains the film and a trailer, plus teasers for upcoming films like Crank 2. The B-side replicated the trailers with a full screen version of the film. The only technical qualms lie in the source materials, and consist of badly mixed dialogue stems for Statham in his early in-care scenes with Rudakova, and the inexplicable use of non-drop shadow subtitles for the handful of French dialogue; the white captions are bleached and obliterated when they appear over brightly lit shot elements, and it’s a serious screw up on the part of the filmmakers. (Note: also available is a 2-disc edition with making-of featurettes, director commentary, and a digital copy of the film.)
A mediocre effort that ought to end the franchise, but knowing Besson, there’s probably a feeble #4 in the works.
© 2009 Mark R. Hasan