The Transporter (2002) 20th Century Fox
1 hr. 32 mins.
Starring: Jason Stratham, Shu Qi, Matt Schulze, Francois Berleand, Ric Young, Doug Rand, Didier Saint Melin, Tonio Descanvelle
Directed by: Cory Yuen

The Transporter



Photo: 20th Century Fox

The Transporter is along the lines of the prototypical Luc Besson vehicle that promotes everything a gritty guy wants in his high-voltage action/adventure: eye-popping kinetic sequences that include riveting car chases and well-choreographed fight scenes that would make Jackie Chan green with envy, stylized explosions and exhaustive gunplay that stimulate the inactive senses, and of course the beautiful bombshell babes that serve as the tasty eye candy. So why question a formula that has been so instrumental for Transporter co-writer-producer Besson? Well, mainly because his actioner is a boisterous version of an otherwise standard martial arts flick that has all the enthusiastic kick of an eighty year-old chorus dancer. Hong Kong director/fight choreographer Cory Yuen (Romeo Must Die) has an eye for delivering the solid goods that an aesthetically action-packed flick should deliver. But this relentless and cockeyed slugfest shows no signs of originality or uniqueness to elevate it beyond its one-dimensional raucousness. This jittery junk is palatable in some doses but for the most part the adrenaline surge teeters off to the point that The Transporter in theory is just another bombastic excuse for targeting the testosterone-driven masses with its showy banality.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels star Jason Stratham plays mercenary Frank Martin, a former British special-forces operative living along the French Mediterranean who takes on the task of making special deliveries to fuel his lavish lifestyle. Martin will engage in this activity regardless of the consequences and transport whatever it is he needs to move at the right price. In this case, Martin is hired to deliver a mysterious product to a bad-tempered smooth cad (Matt Schulze). However, being the professional that he is, Martin breaks his own rules of interfering with a particular “package” and happens to stumble across a shaken-up but gorgeous young woman (Shu Qi). Soon the whole disjointed plot reveals itself when a villainous figurehead (Ric Young), the father of the sensual woman whom Martin is currently guarding, is making efforts to smuggle illegal Chinese personnel into France and methodically enslaving them. And of course Martin finds himself involved in the on-going turmoil that would require his lethal weapon-like talents to combat the mayhem at hand and thwart the dastardly syndicate altogether.

The Transporter may be an ideal collaborative project where both Besson and Yuen can showcase their hysterical hokum, but the filmmakers do themselves a disservice by trying to stir up what amounts to be an absurd firecracker fable not worthy of its own booming effect. Besson, who has shown some flashy traces of intrigue with fare such as La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element and The Professional, hands over the directing duties to Yuen and the results are ridiculously meager. If anything, the movie resembles some out-of-control pinball machine where the overzealous hero finds himself dodging rapid-fire bullets one moment then diving from rocket launchers the next. And to top of the show-stopping antics, our pumped-up protagonist finds himself in stagy and overwrought fight confrontations taking on the world of baddies in exaggerated, self-serving fashion. Never mind that the story has more holes in it than a Swiss cheese factory. The fact remains that this garrulous eyesore is a silly-minded and self-serving jolting drama that doesn’t mind wallowing in its pomposity.

Stratham is suited for the role as the stoic rogue out for some badass excitement. As no nonsense roughneck Frank Martin, the actor brings some shades of creativity and charm as the studmuffin stuntman he’s asked to be in this frivolous farce. Stratham has the physical presence and rascal-like persona to pull off this Bizzaro version of a suave unconventional James Bond. But the movie doesn’t provide him with much decent material to give his character more of an outlaw edginess that’s both cynical and inherently involving. Instead, he comes off as a distant cartoonish macho meathead who does attention-getting things such as karate-kicking front doors, parachuting from planes onto tractor-trailor trucks, and taking on bands of menacing misfits without breaking a sweat. This isn’t anything that’s riveting even from a guilty pleasure standpoint. The movie is downright goofy and misguided. Basically The Transporter finds the comfort in piling on a collection of gimmicky clichéd machinations and disguising itself as a brawny sensationalistic gun ho adventure. Still, the picture is mere lunacy than it is reasonably lurid in its effectiveness.

The Transporter, sad to say, is not worth cringing over and will probably be dismissed as a poor man’s John Woo’s The Killers. No one will deny the film’s sheen thanks to the snappy crisp cinematography that enhances the excitable physicality of the movie. This vapid showcase is quite numbing on the nerves and if you are into cheap charmless knockoffs that want to bask in the wave of redundant knuckle-crunching cinema, then this is the tiring recycled spectacle for you to behold.

Click here to comment on this review or post your own thoughts.

Frank Ochieng


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