Transporter, The (France, 2002)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

The Transporter is cinematic extravaganza for everyone who disdains wimpy movie elements like "plot" and "character development". This balls-to-the-walls action/adventure makes the average James Bond film look like something by Eric Rohmer. It’s high rent Steven Segal - fights, explosions, and more fights, but with a flair. Director Corey Yuan (well-known for his Hong Kong action films) and writer/producer Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Professional) want the audience to overdose on adrenaline and testosterone, but they also want it clear that they don’t take anything too seriously. That’s why lead actor Jason Stratham always seems to be on the verge of turning to the camera and winking.

To be fair, the movie has something that passes for a storyline, although it’s so riddled with holes and implausibilities that one would do best to ignore it altogether. (For example, there’s a scene in which a woman, tied to a chair, manages to get into the backseat of a car by herself without being freed from her bonds. Short of David Copperfield, I can’t think of anyone who could manage that.) The screenplay, co-written by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, steals liberally from Besson’s The Professional. The lead character, Frank Martin - a.k.a. “The Transporter” (Stratham) - bears more than a passing resemblance to Jean Reno's Leon. He makes money by taking things (or people) from one location to another, no questions asked. He lives by three rules: (1) The deal is the deal, (2) No names, and (3) Don’t open the package. He gets into trouble when he violates Rule #3 and discovers a pretty girl named Lai (Qi Shu) trapped inside a bag. From that moment on, Martin is on the run with all sorts of bad guys, and even a few good guys, on his trail. The film eventually has something to do with Chinese people being sold into slavery, but the less the viewer pays attention to that, the better of he (or she) will be.

Aside from Jason Stratham (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch), there's nothing special going on with the acting. Stratham is delightfully cool as the imperturbable Transporter, but no one in the supporting cast makes an impression. Qi Shu brings little more than a cute face and a poor command of English to her love interest/woman-in-distress role. Matt Schulze is not imposing as the bad guy (perhaps because he doesn't froth at the mouth enough). And Francois Berleand is uninteresting as the police inspector who takes an interest in Frank's situation.

The action sequences are virtually non-stop, with only occasional, brief interruptions to facilitate minor exposition. Every example of hand-to-hand combat features lots of martial arts (high kicks, but no obvious "wire fu"), and enough explosives and ammo are expended to supply a small army. The film opens with an amazing thing: a car chase that isn't boring (it's so outrageously over-the-top that it can't help but be fun). Overall, The Transporter will likely satisfy anyone on the lookout for a mindless, cheesy action flick. The Transporter's destination may be ordinary, but, to get there, this film moves.

Transporter, The (France, 2002)

Director: Corey Yuan
Cast: Jason Stratham, Qi Shu, Matt Schulze, Francois Berleand, Ric Young
Screenplay: Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen
Cinematography: Pierre Morel
Music: Stanley Clarke
U.S. Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Run Time: 1:32
U.S. Release Date: 2002-10-11
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1