Like its two predecessors, Transporter 3 stars Jason Statham as driver-for-hire Frank Martin as he couriers a dangerous package while kicking ass, getting undressed, and kicking ass while getting undressed. If you are a fan of the previous films, or of action thrillers in the era of Bourne, or of Statham’s impossibly chiseled body, then you’ll like Transporter 3.
This time, Martin is transporting a damsel-in-minidress, Valentina (Natalya Rudakova), from Marseille, France to Odesa, Ukraine in an Audi A8 W-12. The distance between the two is more than 2000km as the crow flies, or roughly ten times the length of Jamaica. So you’ll also like this movie if you’re a fan of long legs, fast cars or impossibly short drives across the Mediterranean.
Director Olivier Megaton keeps things tripping along: along with editors Camille Delamarre and Carlo Rizzo, Megaton captures twice the kinetic energy of Bourne director Paul Greengrass, but with half the coherence. Greengrass always understood the action was in service of the story; Megaton has it the other way round, glossing over dialogue to get to the next hyperactive chase.
The Transporter films always emphasize karate chops over acting chops, so Statham’s performance, dynamic in its physicality, is emotionally static. (It doesn’t help that composer Alexandre Azaria mickey-mouses the entire score; nothing drains a scene like overblown music.)
By now, it’s difficult to watch Statham’s topless roundhouse kicks, grimaces at the wheel, or manic sprint without thinking you’ve seen it all before. His career, full of promise after his terrific debut a decade ago in Guy Ritchie’s Brit-indie heist flick Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, has jumped the shark with one too many jumper-cable, ready-for-cable movies.
Aside from the Transporter trilogy, you can find Statham doing his muscleman-of-action shtick in The One (2001), The Italian Job (2003), Chaos (2005), Crank (2006) and its upcoming sequel Crank 2, and Death Race (2008). Want definitive proof? Last Sunday, he appeared in a high-octane Audi ad during America’s NFL Super Bowl, his entire persona boiled down to thirty seconds of whip, kick, drive a stick.
Even if your appetite for Statham hasn’t been sated (and let’s be honest, with abs like his, it hasn’t), the misogyny laced through Transporter 3 is much less palatable. The excuse that the film is intended for guys is no excuse at all; it only entrenches double standards that need no entrenching.
Rudakova spends all her on-screen time in make-up and heels, by turns helpless, high and horny. And she is the only woman in the film, with no balance provided for her cardboard character. Franchise writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen clearly think, or are comfortable creating the illusion, that the world is a brutal but ultimately simple place where men manage, manipulate and mutilate each other, with beautiful women tagging along for the ride.
For Transporter 3, like a sports car, a shopping spree, or any guilty pleasure, one rule endures: after you’ve paid your money and had your fun, call your friend and confess you’ve done a bad thing.
Directed by Olivier Megaton.
With Jason Statham, Natalya Rudakova.
100 minutes. Action.