December 21, 2008

Movie Review: Transporter 3

The "Transporter" franchise is deeply silly and a fair amount of fun. These are not intended to be serious, contemplative movies full of statements about the human condition. Pop your brain out of your head, you're not going to need it for the next hour and a half -- and indeed, using too much brainpower would kind of spoil things anyway.

Effects:* Transporter 3 knows what you want, baby. You came for FX. Action. Stunts. Car chases, fistfights, and explosions. Transporter 3 has what you need. Transporter 3 won't hold back on you, sugar. You want six-on-one martial arts fighting? Yeah, baby, we got that. Shee-it, we got a ten-on-one martial arts fight, complete with a boss battle at the end. You want car chases? Oh. Yes. Fast, sexy black cars shooting at obviously unsafe speeds down highways somewhere purportedly near the Mediterranean sea. Gunplay? Damn right we got gunplay in this movie. You want stuff blowing up? Transporter 3 blows up lots of stuff. Yeah. You know you love it. All the explosions look the same, but that's okay. Some of the bigger set-piece stunts -- especially in the later sequences of the movie -- are quite silly. But you didn't come here for the verisimlitude of a Jason Bourne movie.

Story: Negligible. The Transporter gets pulled into a job, against his will, when his buddy (a transporter-in-training) gets bumped off by some bad guys. They're looking to find a final resting home for a ship full of containers of Trichloro-Ethyldeadlystuff and to do that, they need the Transporter to get a package from Marseilles to various locations moving further east across Europe with a befreckled Ukrainian hottie. Now here's the twist -- The Transporter and the hottie are both wearing bracelets with high explosives, and if they ever go more than 75 feet from the car, they explode in a ludicrously perfect and deadly fireball. So based on that, the only real challenge is finding creative ways for The Transporter to break all of his own rules (1. no names; 2. never open the package; 3. never change the deal).

Script: Well, the dialogue is better than the opening sequence of your typical episode of CSI: Miami, so it's got that going for it. The storyline is easy and predictable, intended only to provide pretexts for the various action and stunt sequences. Character development is minimal despite some love-interest padding, and despite the best efforts of the scriptwriter and editor to use cuts and narrative breaks in the beginning to keep the audience confused, there really isn't a whole lot of art there -- a "journeyman effort" is about where this one lands.

Cast: Jason Statham is the franchise, of course -- he brings good looks, rough physicality, and a sarcastic coolness to the character. He does bring it alive; he didn't just mail in this sequel-to-a-sequel. Two characters who are supposed to be related do not look even remotely alike. A few minor characters in the movie are repeat appearances from Transporter and Transporter 2. Everyone else, including the characters who are supposed to be Americans, look like Eurotrash.

Cinematography: Workable but again not a joy to behold. The point of the movie is to enjoy the action sequences and mostly these are filmed with a technically accurate if somewhat emotionally distant hand. By which I mean, yeah, it looks cool and you can easily tell what's going on, but you don't get a deep feeling of the danger, pain, or effort the characters should be going through in these extreme situations.

Costumes: The Transporter wears his characteristic suit with a skinny tie. The befreckled Ukrainian hottie is appropriately hot in her skimpy cocktail dress. The government officials all look a little bit too frumpy; in some cases that is forgivable and in others it is not. Everyone else, again, looks like Eurotrash.

Music: About what you'd expect. Action sequences are backed up by fast-paced quasi-disco vaguely reminiscent of cop movies from the 1970's but updated so that's cool. Incidental music is contemporary and forgettable.

Comments: Transporter 3 suffers from no illusions about its identity and role in the world. A disposable action flick, it provides enough exposition to keep the effects sequences making enough logical sense that you don't feel like you're watching an extended channel-flip between European Car Chases and Moldovan Mixed Martial Arts Semifinals. Many of the plot elements, fights, and effects seriously strain creduluity. But if that doesn't bother you all that much, then you'll have fun with it. Certainly worth a rental or a matinee.

* This category is temporarily promoted to the top of the rubric because, let's not fool anyone, there's no other reason to see this movie other than the action and effects.

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