The title character in “The Transporter” is an unflappable, endlessly resourceful mercenary whose persona is somewhere between James Bond and Jackie Chan. He can maneuver out of any difficult situation, even those involving speeding cars and exploding fireballs. And in hand-to-hand combat, he’s not averse to taking off his shirt and using it as a weapon against three opponents at once.
Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is the Transporter, an ex-military loner who uses his fantastic BMW and expert driving ability to make a tidy living in the more picturesque parts of France. Need a getaway car for your bank heist, or transport for some illegal goods? No problem, as long as you can pay for the service. Frank doesn’t ask questions, and he never looks in the bag to see what he’s carrying. He’s discreet and professional, so much that when on one occasion the canvas bag seems to have something alive inside of it, he barely bats an eye before tossing it in the trunk like any other cargo.
But his human side gets the best of him and he opens the bag. Inside is a gorgeous Chinese woman, Lai (Qi Shu), with whom he winds up running after the job goes awry. There are sinister plots such as those typically found in these kinds of movies, most of them centering around a bad guy known as Wall Street (Matt Schulze).
We will have to overlook the laughably forced romance between Frank and Lai, and the police inspector (Francois Berleand) whose French accent is nearly indecipherable. It is not to the movie’s credit that the protagonist keeps his cargo bound and gagged for as long as he does, either; Frank teeters dangerously on the edge of becoming unsympathetic.
In all, though, this is an exciting bit of Euro-fluff co-written by Luc Besson, who gave us “Kiss of the Dragon” and “The Fifth Element,” and Robert Mark Kamen, who co-scripted those movies and also wrote “The Karate Kid.” So you get the idea, story-wise, where things are going.
It’s the contributions of director Corey Yuen, who has made a good many Hong Kong fight flicks, that makes “The Transporter” worth noting. Between him and first-time editor Nicolas Trembasiewicz, the film’s frenetic, stylish pace is altogether refreshing and exhilarating. The medium-tempo techno music on the soundtrack, the wry humor employed by the dryly charismatic Jason Statham, the increasingly outrageous stunt pieces — this is cool, slick stuff, ready to quench the thirst of an audience that misses the summer blockbusters.
B (1 hr., 32 min.; )