Eric D. Snider

Transporter 2

"Transporter 2" has dropped the unwieldy "The" from its title, but that's the only thing that's been streamlined from its 2002 high-energy predecessor. Most of what made "The Transporter" work -- quick-cut editing, well-choreographed fights and a super-cool demeanor from the title character -- is back, but in smaller doses. They've gone back to the well only to discover that most of the good stuff was used up the first time around.

Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is back as the Transporter, a British military-trained driver, fighter and all-around handyman who makes a living on the underground delivering dangerous people and goods to their destinations. He is currently lying low in Miami, chauffeuring the adorable young son (Hunter Clary) of the U.S. government's drug czar, Jefferson Billings (Matthew Modine), to and from school. What led him to this decidedly non-dangerous task is not explained, nor do we learned why he switched from a BMW to an Audi between movies. (Hey, that's like recasting a role in films like these.)

But it turns out there is danger in guarding a Cabinet member's son after all, when young Jack's pediatrician is replaced by bad guys who seek to inject him with something. Frank smells something fishy, and the bad guys are fairly stupid, but they do succeed in moving to Plan B, which is to abduct the boy. (Their master plan eventually has to do with drugs, which is true of 100 percent of action movies set in Miami.) Frank is vaguely suspected of being in on the kidnapping plot, which forces him to work under the radar on his own to bring the boy to safety.

Written again by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen but with a new director ("Unleashed's" Louis Leterrier), this sequel suffers from the usual symptoms of sequelitis: too neglectful of what made its predecessor entertaining; too worried about out-doing itself. "The Transporter" was no great work of art, believe me, but the fight scenes were cleverly arranged and expertly performed, with Frank showing a resourcefulness that would make MacGyver envious. Here, his fights are few and brief, the one good one (involving ingenious use of a firehose) not occurring until near the end. His fondness for driving maniacally is similarly forsaken. Basically, there's not enough action in this movie that is essentially all about action.

It is also interesting to note that even in a film composed of nothing but unbelievable, improbable, even impossible things, there are a few events that stand out as being SO impossible that they pull you out of the movie. Think of it. You're watching "Transporter 2," and there are things that actually make you go, "Wait a second...."

In one extraordinary coincidence, Frank uses an iPod to store a digital photo that he pulls from a computer. That in itself is noteworthy, but the really amazing part is that the iPod WAS JUST SITTING THERE. It's not his; he didn't bring it with him; it just happens to have been left on the desk.

The best scene, however -- the one where you say, "OK, I know the whole movie is farfetched, but THIS is too much" -- is when someone has affixed a bomb to the bottom of Frank's car and he removes it by driving off a jump that turns the car sideways in the air, and the bomb gets scraped off by the hook of a construction-site crane, and the car finishes its revolution and ends up right-side up again and lands perfectly. And he does all that ON PURPOSE. He intentionally drives off the jump, knowing the car will twist at just the right angle so the crane can remove the bomb. You get the feeling he's done this exact thing before.

Which he sort of has, I guess. Re-watch the original for some good times. All they have to offer the second time around is more of the same, only less.

Grade: C+

Rated PG-13, a couple swear words (including an F), a lot of violence, a little blood

1 hr., 28 min.

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