Lionsgate // 2008 // 104 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 10th, 2009
Locked. Loaded. Ready to roll.
Jason Statham (Death Race) returns for a third helping of driving really fast in an import sedan and participating in physics-defying stunts and making out with heavily-made-up women who speak in broken English.
Statham is, once again, Frank Martin, the titular "transporter" who makes his living hauling mysterious cargo in his showroom-new Audi. He's approached by a pushy client for a job, declines, beats up a bunch of hooligans, and goes back home until the secondary transporter that ended up with the job crashes into his house. Some more plot happens and Frank is forced into working for a bad guy (Robert Knepper, Prison Break) who's angling to score some kind sweet toxic waste disposal contract or something.
Frank is cuffed with a cutting-edge plot device, which will blow him up if he's too far separated from his car and then he's off, following directions, evading pursuers, fornicating with the incredibly annoying girl who's riding shotgun, riding a bicycle really fast, punching more goons in the head and, yes, eventually landing his car on an f-ing train.
I liked The Transporter. Loathed Transporter 2. My feelings for the third fall somewhere between mildly interested and apathetic. Whereas the second film flew completely off the rails in the believability department (I don't need to remind anyone here about the car-flip-bomb-disarm do I?), Transporter 3 manages to keep the action scenes slightly more grounded. The train-landing thing and a head-scratching improvised flotation device sequence stretch the suspension of disbelief mightily, but don't obliterate it like the second film did so effectively.
I liked the gimmick of the proximity explosive bracelet and nearly every way to milk the conceit is implemented. One scene has Frank surprised by another driver stealing the car, so he's forced to mount up on a BMX and bike like crazy through a factory in order to keep within the blast radius of his car. It's a fun, frenzied action set-piece. In fact, all of action bits are satisfying. There are two major fight scenes where Frank takes on whole detachments of bad guys, a high-speed car chase through the mountains and the climactic showdown on a speeding train. Unfortunately, director Olivier Megaton directs these scenes just like you'd expect someone named Olivier Megaton would. They're edited in that lightning fast ADHD style that has become increasingly prevalent -- and poisonous -- in action movies. Megaton deletes whole frames from these sequences so they jump around like your disc is skipping ever so slightly. Statham's movements reminded me of the way that girl from The Ring walked around. This is all unfortunate, because there's some great Cory Yuen fight choreography that is damaged by the needlessly hyper-stylized editing.
On the character end, Statham does his thing, frowning and punching like a pro and Robert Knepper is actually pretty awesome as the heavy, quickly shedding the T-Bag persona that immediately springs to mind when you see him. The guy has a future as a movie villain. Then there's Natalya Rudakova, the female passenger and Frank's eventual love interest. If there's a primary reason for my lukewarm reaction to the film it's her; her character has to be one of the most unsympathetic female sidekicks in an action movie I've seen. Top five easily. She's whiny, unfunny, vulgar, hugely unhelpful in a crunch (Frank's driving like 140 mph in a car chase and she's drunk and giggly), unwilling to share critical information and, frankly, not very sexy. All she needed was a tiny dog in her purse to complete the look. When this girl is on screen she brings with her a terminal case of Motion Picture Death.
The movie didn't do too much for me, but what a great slice of high-def work from Lionsgate, a studio that continually impressed me with its Blu-ray releases. The 2.35:1 widescreen is a thing of beauty, blasting out razor-sharp clarity in frame and saturated with thick, blissful color work. Megaton has so much happening on screen, over-stylized as it is, and the HD transfer is more than capable of keeping up. A wonderful video presentation. The DTS-HD Master Audio matches the picture quality in intensity. Effects are clean and enveloping and the soundtrack -- thankfully stripped of hip-hop -- pounds. Turn this bastard up for a true living room nuke job.
Extras: a laid-back commentary from Megaton, a boilerplate making-of featurette, an interesting feature on real-life transporters, storyboards, trailers and a pair of brief segments looking at the visual effects and the set design.
It's better than the second one, but that's like saying, I don't know, plain toast is better than a donkey punch to the throat. Awesome looking Blu-ray.
Guilty of transportation of a really irritating secondary character.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13