This flick is tits (i.e. that means it’s pretty fuckin’ entertaining).
October 12, 2002
I must admit that I was muy apprehensive about seeing The Transporter, especially given the fact that it is the creation of the same folks responsible for the utterly inane, roiling piece of shit action dud Kiss of the Dragon. Same producer, same screenwriter, same action choreographer (except this time, around he’s directing the entire picture). Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised, as the film totally exceeded my expectations.
While by no means a stellar film, it is easily the most decent action film to come down the pike in many a moon. It is teeming with good, creative action sequences, fair-to-midland dialogue that doesn’t completely insult the intelligence of the average viewer, and a leading actor who could very well become the next generation action hero that Hollywood has been so desperately trying to find. To put it bluntly: forget Diesel, Jason Statham is full octane, baby!
A lot of the success of The Transporter is due not only to Statham’s magnetic personality, but also to director Cory Yuen’s deft approach to the genre. A long time veteran of Hong Kong (Yuen has helmed some truly amazing HK films, like Saviour of the Soul and Legend of Fong Sai Yuk), Yuen has spent the last several years choreographing mediocre actions sequences in mediocre Hollywood pap like Romeo Must Die. None of those films were deserving of his talents. With The Transporter, Yuen literally redeems himself, especially with one bravura oil slick sequence (more on that later).
The basic plot of the film focuses on Frank (Jason Statham), who is the titular “transporter.” Basically, he is a driver for hire, willing to undertake jobs of a dubious nature in exchange for cold, hard cash. Statham’s character owes a little bit of debt to Ryan O’Neil’s stoic driver in the 1978 classic The Driver. At any rate, Frank lives by three simple rules: 1) Never change the deal. 2) No names. 3) Never look in the package. As you can very well guess, all three rules are broken throughout the course of the film, thus creating major headaches for our anti-hero. The plot is just simple enough not to get in the way of the action and just complicated enough to not be incredibly boring; we’re talking the perfect action film balance here, baby!
The film’s dialogue, while a tad stilted, isn’t horribly mundane and fits the plot like a snug pair of driving gloves. It rides the line incredibly well between being overwrought and melodramatic and cartoonish. Basically, it’s pretty standard action film dialogue, which is fine, since most folks don’t go see these kinds of films expecting Olivier caliber recitations. The key here are the action sequences, my friend. And there are plenty of them, all delivered in a crisp and well-paced manner. The film’s opening sequence starts out with restrained ambiance, falters in a few places, but ultimately turns into a full-tilt, white-knuckled car chase. Given director Yuen’s martial arts background, you can bet that there are plenty of fisticuffs and foot-to-head scuffles. Yuen has made sure that the fight sequences are filmed with a nice HK-to-American style ratio. What this means is that traditionally in HK martial arts films, the action is filmed wide, whereas in most American-made kung fu flicks, the action is filmed close-up (an obvious attempt to cover up the lack of skill on the part of the star). With The Transporter, Yuen mixes the two filming techniques, cutting in close to create a claustrophobic, hand-to-hand vibe and alternately pulling back to provide ample viewing of the action. This all works to great effect, especially in the film’s key sequence, a brilliant oil slick smack down. This is perhaps the single most inspired action/fight sequence committed to film in the past decade. Yes, it’s that sweet.
Aside from the action, the film greatly benefits from the screen presence of Jason Statham, who could very well be the savior that the action film genre has so desperately been searching for. Statham definitely shined in both Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but here he really lets loose and proves that he can be one mean mutherfuckin’ bruiser. He delivers the right balance of rough-and-tumble and refinement, coming off like a Sean Connery from the wrong side of the tracks. And while other actors would have made the martial arts stunts look half-assed, Statham instills the fight sequences with a down-n-dirty sensibility that is totally believable.
All praise aside, it’s important to keep in mind that The Transporter is not a totally kick-ass action film deserving of classic status, but it’s damn decent, which is a lot more than one can say for the lame action films they have been shuffling off to the multiplex the last couple of years. That said, in the end, The Transporter is solid Saturday afternoon escapist fare.