- Rated PG-13
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Lionsgate
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
s a Jason Statham apologist, you learn to take the bad with the good – especially when most of his films tend to stray more towards the guilty pleasure side of the spectrum. This is key to enjoying the “Transporter” series, because even though Statham continues to shine in the title role, the movies have gotten progressively worse with each installment. Unfortunately, while it was easy to forgive the B-movie campiness of the first sequel thanks to some great action sequences and larger-than-life characters, “Transporter 3” is so incredibly uninteresting that you’ll be yawning before the second act rolls around.
Statham returns as ex-Special Forces operative Frank Martin, a transporter-for-hire who has traded in his driving gloves for a fishing rod and some quality time with his friend, Inspector Tarconi (François Berléand). But when a shady businessman named Johnson (Robert Knepper) kidnaps Frank and rigs him with an explosive bracelet that will detonate if he wanders more than 75 feet from his car, Frank is forced to come out of retirement for one last mission. This time around, he’s been assigned to protect Valentina (Natalya Rudakov), the daughter of a Ukrainian official who is being held captive until her politico father signs a contract allowing the dumping of toxic waste in the Black Sea. Valentina has also been outfitted with an explosive bracelet, and in order to save both of their lives, Frank must track down Johnson before it's too late.
Of course, Frank doesn’t actually know that Valentina is the package he’s transporting until the final 20 minutes of the film (which is fitting since the audience has no idea what the story is even about until then), and though it’s meant to be a big twist, it only makes the first 80 minutes seem completely pointless. If the plot sounds a lot like the first film (Frank takes a job delivering a package, the package is actually a kidnapped girl, Frank babysits the girl, the girl falls in love with Frank), it’s because it is. Unfortunately, this version is completely lifeless. The driving scenes are boring and uninspired, while the action sequences are so heavily edited that it’s impossible to appreciate Corey Yuen’s inventive choreography. In fact, the only set piece worth mentioning is a scene where Frank must chase after his car on a bicycle after Johnson decides he’s not worth the trouble. It’s the only time the stakes of the bracelet are used to full effect – except for the lackluster ending, which has Frank facing off against a shamefully defenseless Johnson.
Since Statham pretty much plays the same character in every action movie he’s in, there’s not a whole lot to discuss about his return as Frank Martin. He’s just as cool and badass as he was in the first two films, but he has a lot less to say this time around. It’s probably because his co-star, Natalya Rudakov (who continues the franchise’s trend of casting strangely attractive female actors), is almost impossible to understand. Her English is terrible, and she’s even more annoying than original “Transporter” gal Shu Qi. The rest of the cast doesn’t fare any better. François Berléand’s great comic talents are never fully utilized, while Robert Knepper’s villain doesn’t have enough bite to ever make him seem truly dangerous.
Anyone can look beyond bad writing and acting as long as there’s some good action to keep you entertained, but “Transporter 3” can’t even get that right. What could have been a highly enjoyable guilty pleasure is an embarrassing chapter to a once-promising franchise, and though most people will be tempted to blame director Olivier Megaton for the film’s failure, writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen are just as much to blame. Frank Martin could have been the next James Bond, but if this is the quality we’re to expect in the future, we’ll stick with 007.