Okay. One of my guilty pleasures is big, loud, dumb action films. The type of film uber-producer Joel Silver used to make as his stock and trade. Every once in a while, the genre creates a great film like "Die Hard" or "Cliffhanger". More often than not, the films are quickly forgotten.
"The Transporter", released in 2002, is about as big, loud and dumb as they get. And a lot of fun. Throw bits of James Bond, Jackie Chan and Guy Ritchie films into a blender, add a dash of the TV show "MacGyver" and let a French director/ producer stir it all together and you have "The Transporter".
When we first meet Frank Martin (Jason Statham), a mysterious character who really knows how to handle his customized Audi, he is given the assignment of transporting a female prisoner for some shady underworld types. The woman (Qi Shu), soon... Let's stop here and discuss rule #1 of big, loud, dumb action films. Don't ask too many questions. Why he has to drive a Chinese woman through the South of France is beyond the point, if there is a point. But because the woman is played by Qi Shu, a star of some stature in Hong Kong, Writer/ Producer Luc Besson and director Corey Yuen, a well-respected martial arts choreographer, seem justified in squeezing lots of martial arts into the mix. It also provides them a lame attempt at a romantic subplot. Finally, setting the action in the south of France gives them the opportunity to use all of those tiny, winding roads to fullest advantage during the chase sequences. See, it all makes sense. Right? Well, no. Not really. There are problems with the story, but that is beyond the point. When you have the type of over the top, over heated action sequences contained in "The Transporter", story is secondary.
"The Transporter 2" is pretty much the same film with two key differences. The new film is set in Miami and this time, his cargo is a little boy, Jack Billings. Frank has taken a temporary job driving the son of the Billings (Amber Valletta and Matthew Modine (more on that later)) to and from school. Why would Jack Billings (Hunter Clary) need a transporter? Hid dad is the head of the US Drug Enforcement Task Force so every corner of his Miami home is guarded. If it sounds a bit like "Man on Fire"-light you are very perceptive. Just as Frank and Jack begin to bond, Gianni (Alessandro Gassman), a hit man, buys an exotic toxic substance and its antidote. His plan is to infect Jack and use the antidote to get Mr. Billings to do the bidding of his bosses, the Colombian drug cartel. Gianni's girlfriend, Lola (Katie Nauta, think "La Femme Nikita" with an eating disorder), is an assassin who likes to pull large guns out of her pink garter belts and start shooting. She's a bad shot, but doesn't care and simply sprays bullets everywhere. Like I said, the story doesn't matter much.
"2" does one thing the first film did not. Because the premise is virtually the same, with one minor change, the problems with the film become more amplified, making them more noticeable, tipping the balance slightly. "2" contains some fun, well-choreographed action scenes and also a lot of over-the-top, jokey action scenes. A car chase is particularly memorable and a fight with a fire hose evokes memories of a more serious Jackie Chan. There is even a fight on an out of control jet which is as fun as it is implausible. The problem with these films is that Frank has to have something to care about, to make all of his effort mean something. In the first film, there was the lame attempt to develop a romance between Frank and Lai (Qi Shu). It was superficial and rudimentary, but it worked just well enough. In "2", director Louis Letterier attempts to have Frank bond with Jack. This relationship is just a little too `cutesie-pie' and tips the balance unfavorably.
Speaking of Matthew Modine... Why did he agree to play Mr. Billings? That was more or less a rhetorical question. I know why. Because he isn't exactly on the "A" list (or even the "B" list) anymore and he needs to make mortgage payments just like everyone else. But Modine needs a better agent. He deserves better than this C-level supporting character that is on screen for all of 20 minutes.
"The Transporter 2" has some good action scenes, but we are unable to completely overlook the problems with the story this time. Worthy of a rental when available on DVD. Beyond that, you're wasting your money.