Corey Yuen, Louis Leterrier and Olivier Megaton direct Jason Statham, François Berléand, Shu Qi, Matt Schulze, Amber Valletta, Kate Nauta, Matthew Modine, Natalya Rudakova and Robert Knepper in this trilogy of action movies where a military trained driver begrudgingly takes on missions that break his strict rules of business.
- Never change the deal.
- No names.
- Never open the package.
The is The Stath’s key franchise. Sure, the fly-by-nights love a bit of Crank…. but for us pure actionheads The Transporter series delivers it ridiculous formula of cars, babes, martial arts, Easyjet settings and Eurotrash baddies with a more refined sense of flair, wit and class. Jason looks the tits in his mortician black suit and tie get up, his sullen character, Frank Martin, is always in control of the situation whether laying out his code of conduct with a gun to his head, handling the cops, navigating a high speed chase or taking on 30 henchmen with whatever comes to hand. Sillier than Bourne but more spectacular than most DTV fodder, this really delivers the beer and pizza thrills. The first one is pretty flawless when held up in comparison to, say, early Arnie flicks like Commando. The Stath’s physicality and steely resolve are the tough sell that makes it all work, no matter how cartoonish or cliched. There are other strengths to the initial entry has that have never been bettered. Frank has genuine chemistry with his female lead here (a charming Shu Qi) and the ridiculous topless oil slick rumble sets a very high standard that all future entries struggled to reach.
2 is more of the same with a slightly starrier supporting cast. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The plot rips off Man On Fire and adds a dash of Mission: Impossible 2. Kate Nauta makes for a memorable bad girl secondary antagonist. The action relies on CGI a bit more which is a shame, the whole thing looks like it has been lensed through an ugly oil slick. Very much a visual product of its time. Budget Jerry Bruckheimer. But ultimately it delivers loopy action (Frank Martin uses watermelons for boxing gloves) and gives The Stath plenty of moments of glowering intensity.
3 equally avoids fucking too much with the formula but the rot has noticeably set in. There’s too much of that weird ‘French tries to do American’ humour that cheekily stinks out many a Luc Besson produced Europacorp factory unit. The damsel in distress this time is played by an untrained Russian teenage model Luc “plucked” from the streets of New York. Possibly the less assumed about that business transaction the better. And she ain’t the best actress in the world despite being gifted more screentime than previous Transporter girls. On the plus side, Robert Knepper is probably the most menacing villain of the series. The movie openly jokes about its plotholes in real time. And the rollicking Train Vs Audi finale has the goods. There’s certainly far bigger budgeted threequels out there that deliver a lot less bang for your buck. It is the only entry that doesn’t exceed expectations.
8 / 7 / 6
My wife and I do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/