Dir: Louis Leterrier. France.2005. 87 min.
After the ill-judged mixtureof mawkish sentimental drama and martial arts mayhem of Glasgow-based Dannythe Dog/Unleashed, writer-producer Luc Besson returns to the pure actionvein with this sequel to his 2002 hit, The Transporter. With hissurrogate Louis Leterrier again handling directing chores, Transporter 2is a wholly derivative but slightly-more-watchable-than-most actioner, which borrows heavily fromBesson's even more successful Taxi franchise. But originality is notsomething Besson's fans really clamour for and he otherwise delivers thegoods: breathlessly paced, non-stopaction, with the prerequisite mix of martial arts mayhem and motorized stunts.20th Century Fox will release in the US in September.
Clocking in at a lean 87minutes (unusual among big-budget action movies), the $32m Transporter 2again stars British hunk Jason Statham as Frank Martin, a super-cool formerex-Special Forces operative who now earns a living as a "transporter" of"goods". Though a mercenary invariably clad in dark suit, white shirt and tie,there is nothing morally ambiguous about his job choices. He even is decentenough to resist the advances of his married employer. And how can you fault adapper hero who packs a spare freshly-laundered shirt in the trunk of his carafter a particularly bloodied run-in with the enemy'
The plot is, as usual withBesson, strictly mechanical. Besson relocates Martin from the French Riviera toMiami (perhaps to give the stereotyped action a feeling of renewal), where wefind him doing temp work as a private chauffeur to the young son of a top USanti-drug law enforcement honcho (Modine), who is about the host a majorinternational anti-drug conference. A heartless Italian evil genius (Gassman)in the pay of the Colombian drug cartel and seconded by a gang of plug-uglyRussian virologists, kidnaps the child and injects him with a lethal contagiousvirus which his father spreads to the conference members.
Statham, hoarse-voiced andlaconically self-assured, makes for an appealing action hero, and there is theadded attraction of his performing much of his own martial art stunt work,staged with the usual choreographic spin by Cory Yuen. Michel Julienne providessome excellent stunts for the hero's armoured, gravity-defying BMW, which makesthe Batmobile look like a tricycle. One hilarious highlight has Martin disposeof a bomb attached to the underside of his car in a most original corkscrewingmanner.
Though Statham holds hisown, the cast of villains are the usual stock grotesques. Gassman shows off aperfectly-sculpted body but otherwise doesn't vie for a place in the movievillain hall of fame. 23-year-old model Kate Nauta is Gassman's machinepistol-wielding lover, whose combat uniform is reduced to a nightie and garterbelt. Nauta must represent one of the more repellently asexual femme fatalefigures in the Besson canon.
Francois Berleand repeatshis role as Martin's French law enforcement crony, Tarconi, who badly mistimesa Miami holiday and ends up giving cooking lessons to the US marshals whoarrest him at Martin's home. Berleandshows only a fraction of the eccentric talent that has made him one of France'sbest supporting screen talents.
With Besson back-seatdriving, former second unit and assistant director Leterrier proves himself aperfectly competent executant in this, his third picture for Besson. Technicalcredits are slick down the line.
Dir: Louis Leterrier
John Mark Harrington