Review by Dustin Putman
1½ stars out of 4
For 92 minutes, "The Transporter," directed Corey Yuen (2001's "The
One"), assaults audiences with one spectacular stunt after the next.
While a couple action sequences--such as a climactic fight between
a car and a truck on a swerving, cliffside road--help to pass the
time, all of them are generic knockoffs of ideas and shots from more
innovative filmmakers who beat Yuen to the punch.
The premise is about as arbitrary as these kinds of movies get. Jason
Statham (2001's "John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars") gets his first
major action role as Frank Martin, a transporter who is hired on a
case-by-case basis to deliver packages, no questions asked. When Frank
betrays this rule and opens a package that holds the lovely and kidnapped
Lai (Qi Shu), he and Lai instantly go to the top of criminal Wall
Street's (Matt Schulze) hit list. While on the run, Lai recognizes
Frank's hidden soft side and starts to fall in love with him.
It would be lying to deny that "The Transporter" is technically adequate
and edited with enough aplomb to offer fleeting excitement. But to
what end? Surely, a lot of time and money went into the extended car
chase that opens the picture, but the fact that it has been done in
the same fashion countless times takes away whatever tension and entertainment
value it might have had twenty years ago. There is an inescapable
emptiness that runs through nearly every moment of "The Transporter,"
whether it be during the action (approximately 90% of the film) or
the dialogue (the other 10%). Loud, fast, and accustomed to an adult
eating half of a Happy Meal, the film leaves the viewer questioning,
"that's all there is?"
As buff hero Frank Martin, Jason Statham does his best to emulate
the charisma of Vin Diesel in "XXX," but his presence, and the movie,
are no match for the latter team-up. As quick-thinking love interest
Lai, Qi Shu is spunky and undeniably cute, if a shrill screamer whose
English diction could use some practice. And Matt Schulze (2002's
"Blade II") lends his head baddie a semi-threatening coolness that
meshes well with the generic tone.
Ultimately, there isn't much to say about "The Transporter" because
director Corey Yuen and screenwriters Luc Besson (1994's "The Professional")
and Robert Mark Kamen (2001's "Kiss of the Dragon") don't have much
to say, themselves. At the thirty-minute mark, the makers fool you
into believing the film is aspiring to be the next "La Femme Nikita"
or "The Professional." By the sixty-minute mark, you realize it was
just a false alarm. The initial setup of Frank and Lai has an offbeat
charm that is lost soon after. To Yuen, they are merely ragdoll pawns
at the mercy of the impressive stunt coordinators. For the very fact
that the film does generate more comprehensibility and general ability
than the recent "Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever," "The Transporter" is
not the major chore it could have been to sit through. It's just a major waste.
Copyright © 2002 Dustin Putman