Transporter 3

November, 2008, Thriller

Directed by:Olivier Megaton

Starring:Jason Statham, François Berléand, Robert Knepper , Natalya Rudakova, and Eriq Ebouaney

British hard-case Jason Statham (The Bank Job, Cellular) has successfully settled into a blue-collar version of the James Bond franchise and this third installment in the series generates far more guilty pleasure than 007’s latest, Quantum of Solace. Originally developed by Luc Besson, (a frenetic French producer of action movies with 80 films to his credit and another baker’s dozen in production) Jason’s Frank Martin eschews Bond’s preference for Saville Row suits, gimmicky weapons and Aston Martin sports cars in favor of an understated Audi sedan, off-the-rack black suits and matching ties. Statham, whose 36 year-old body looks like it was chiseled from a piece of bleached Travertine marble, has a permanent 5 o’clock shadow and less hair above his eyes than below them; add an expression of barely concealed aggression coupled with a fondness for brevity in conversation and you have the perfect low-rent action hero for the beer and bratwurst crowd. Based on the box-office success of its predecessors, (and the relatively low cost required to make them) audiences can expect to see more of them.

As Martin, Statham plays a free-lance chauffeur who specializes in delivering precious cargoes of a dubiously legal nature. In 3, the consignment turns out to be Valentina, a freckle-faced Ukrainian party girl whose father holds an important governmental post in charge of protecting that country’s environment. Assorted bad guys kidnap the girl to coerce her dad into signing a contract permitting the importation of toxic garbage and employ Frank to drive the victim to Odessa, insuring their co-operation by strapping explosive devices to the wrists of both driver and passenger which will detonate should either get more than 50 feet away from Frank’s car. It’s a credit to the creativity of screenwriters Besson and Robert Mark Kamen that a full 100 minutes of surprisingly ingenious mayhem can be fashioned from this simple if unrealistic premise.

The ageless French actor Francois Berleand, (56 years young and currently completing his 175th screen performance in a career spanning more than 3 decades) reprises his role as Tarconi, Transporter’s version of M in the Bond films. His task consists of rolling his eyes and shrugging his shoulders in dismay at Frank’s ability to get involved in potentially fatal assignments. As Valentina, director and former graffiti artist Olivier Megaton introduces newcomer Natalya Rudakova to the screen; she’s got the Euro-trash look Besson has used in previous films like The Fifth Element and Nikita - - which means high cheekbones, small breasts and a perpetual pout worn beneath a hairdo that could double as a shag rug. Ms. Rudakova doesn’t have a great deal to do here, so she does it reasonably well. As is the case in most action thrillers, a suitably despicable heavy provides much of the movie’s interest; here that loathsome task is assigned to Robert Knepper, familiar to small screen viewers as the prime villain in Prison Break, Fox Television’s hit series. Sporting an impressively lethal handgun and a wonderfully supercilious attitude, Mr. Knepper delivers a foe worthy of the annihilation the screenwriter’s work hard to deliver. Long established in both film and television, Knepper deserves to gain more substantial roles as a result of the sturdy work he does here. 

The verdict?  Formulaic action fantasy, delivered with in crisp, no- nonsense style by an action hero more plausible than Ian Fleming’s British agent. 

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