Pure popcorn pleasure, this is a heady combination that is half testosterone, half attitude, and all action. “The Transporter” really delivers.
Don’t pay much attention to the plot – no one connected to the movie does. Just pay attention to the chases and explosions, staged with style by Corey Yuen, a veteran Hong Kong actor/director and co-written by Luc Besson, whose wildly imaginative visuals ignited “The Fifth Element” and other films.
Together, they have produced a straight shot of movie adrenaline. Jason Statham (best known for his appearances in tough-guy movies “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels”), plays Frank, a former military man who now serves as a “transporter.” He will deliver anything from one place to another, as long as his price and conditions are met. The price is high. The conditions are these: no names on either side, no changes to the deal once it’s set, and no looking into the package. The movie kicks off with a heart-thumping chase scene as Frank transports three bank robbers and their swag (though he won’t budge until they get rid of a fourth robber who wasn’t part of the deal). We see that Frank is both a meticulous planner and fearless under pressure, whether he is being chased by dozens of cops or penetratingly questioned by just one smart one.
Then Frank takes on another job and for once he breaks one of the rules. He looks in the package he is transporting and finds a young woman named Lai (Shu Qi). If he hesitates about delivering her to her destination, it is only briefly, because he takes her to the drop-off and accepts another job from the man who receives her. It is only when that package turns out to be a bomb intended to kill Frank that he returns to retrieve Li and extract some revenge.
Frank starts to care which side he’s on and he starts to care about Li, then thinks he can’t trust her, then learns he really can. No surprises with the story – this is straight out of screenwriting 101. But there are some very cool surprises in the chases and explosions as Frank and Li take on the bad guys and the bad guys chase after them.
Statham is a fine action hero, handling kick-boxing and dialogue with wit, grace, and style. Qi, who learned English (or some English, anyway) to take on the role, has a fresh, appealing presence, and François Berléand is superb as the policeman caught between suspecting Frank and admiring him. The bad guys played by Matt Schulze and Ric Young are not as interesting as they could be, but the movie moves so fast you won’t have much time to think about it.
Parents should know that the movie features intense, non-stop peril and action violence, with massive destruction of property. Many people are killed. Characters drink and smoke and use very strong language. In the coming attraction and commercial, Lai tells Frank he is in “deep trouble.” The word in the movie is not “trouble.”
Families who see this movie should talk about how Frank appears once to have been an idealist; what made him decide not to try to work to make things better any more? Why did the policeman let Frank go after the bad guys instead of sending the cops? What do you think Frank and Lai will do next? What makes this chase and explosion movie better than so many others?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Snatch” and “The Fifth Element” as well as Hong Kong kick-boxing classics like “A Better Tomorrow” and “Once Upon a Time in China” (all very violent).