|Written by Mel Odom|
|Tuesday, 10 January 2006|
Frank Martin (Jason Statham), the enigmatic driver with the Special Forces background who specializes in pickups and deliveries, first hit the screen (several times, and kicked it too!) in “The Transporter.” French director Luc Besson has carved a niche out of the action movie market for himself (“La Femme Nikita,” “Taxi,” “The Professional,” “The Fifth Element”). He co-wrote and produced 2002’s “The Transporter” and returns to handle part of the writing chores on this movie.
Granted that Besson has been successful with several of his movies in his native France as well as in the American market, he knows what his audiences want and strives to deliver it every time out. His movies have over-the-top heroes and villains, over-the-top-action, and plots that take the audiences where they need to go without being overly cerebral.
The main character in “The Transporter” and “The Transporter 2” is deadly cool, calm and collected under fire or while stating his personal rules as he deals with people who try to make his life more complicated at the same time. Frank Martin is a loner, a man with impeccable taste in cars and killer reflexes while in a high-speed chase. He’s always professional in his demeanor and dress, and even carries a vacuum-sealed extra suit in the trunk of his car.
This time out, Frank is in Miami, working as a chauffeur for the young son (Hunter Clary) of a wealthy Miami couple, the Billings (Amber Valetta, Matthew Modine), who have been estranged from each other for over a year. Unfortunately, the father has been marked by a clever hit man to be the vehicle of a deadly plague that will wipe out several federal agents, as well as their supervisors and political supporters in the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Frank’s job is supposed to be simple, a favor for a friend, and it isn’t supposed to take longer than a month. Unfortunately, more than a month has passed and Frank has gotten heavily involved in a paternal capacity with six-year-old Jack. After Frank wrecks the first attempt to infect Jack with a biological weapon, the assassin, Gianni, abducts Jack and disguises the assassination attempt as a kidnapping to infect Jack’s father.
Chapter 1 opens up with the musical score banging the surround sound and Chapter 2 pays loving attention paid to Frank’s car, a gleaming black beauty that becomes as incredible as the Batmobile before the movie is over. Frank’s watch beeps and he goes to work, pulling on his gloves. He’s temporarily distracted by a blond beauty with ample bosoms who pulls a gun on him and offers to put a bullet through his head. Her buddies attempt to take Frank’s car, which interrupts his schedule. After a brief bit where Frank tells them not to mess up his jacket because it just came out of the dry cleaners, he proceeds to do one of the things he’s best at: kicking butt.
The Miami causeway is temporarily put on display during the opening credits while the music plays. The school bell rings, jangling during a quiet bit through the surround sound system, then kids race from the school and Frank’s young charge Jack hustles to the car. They have a brief exchange which really sells the driver/kid relationship, showing the viewer how fond the two are of each other as they play the riddle game Frank started with Jack. More Miami footage rolls as the music escalates again. At Jack’s house, the parents are involved in an argument. Frank pulls away so Jack doesn’t have to hear the quarrel, giving us viewer a little more insight into his character and the attention he pays to detail. The exchange with Jack’s mother Audrey is also good.
Chapter 4 introduces the surveillance that’s going on over the Billings household. The mood turns decidedly menacing. The sword-fighting sequence later that showcases the villain Gianni’s (Alessandro Gassman) martial ability is awesome though misleading, because he never gets to really show that in his later battle against Frank. The bit introducing Lola (Kate Nauta), Gianni’s whirlwind of sudden death with guns blazing, is pure sex.
The near-miss on the intimacy scene between Frank and Audrey in Chapter 5 is really good, simplistic and powerful without being over the top or gratuitous. Although the later action in the film defies belief (as it should for this type of movie), the exchange is poignant and shows another layer of the honor that makes up Frank Martin.
Chapter 6 blows the doors off as far as the action goes. At the doctor’s office, Lola cold-bloodedly kills the receptionist and the doctor, and she and her henchmen take their places, getting ready to inject young Jack with the biological weapon Gianni has had concocted. The swift intercutting of scenes between Frank and the bad guys builds the tension and expectation level. The quiet, understated percussion that underscores the action thumps through the subwoofer and surround sound. Another continuity point shows up in the form of Tarconi (Francois Berleand), the French inspector who chased Frank in the last movie, who is at the airport where Frank was supposed to pick him up.
The action turns violent and nasty, amping up our appetite for martial arts mayhem and fast cars. When Lola strips off her outerwear and pulls out her pistols (somewhat reminiscent of Lara Croft’s in “Tomb Raider”), incendiary explosions and destruction follow, all driving through the surround sound in a wild mix. One of the neat touches of the sequence is the vapor trail left by the tracers as they stab through the air. Then Frank slides behind the wheel of his vehicle and the first chase of “Transporter 2” is on in a blistering hail of bullets as the assassins move into Plan B.
Chapter 7 opens up with the gentle, happy noises of Jack’s birthday party that fill the surround sound. Unfortunately, Gianni has bracketed Frank in a trap, placing a sniper on a rooftop that will allow him full view of Jack. Lola joins Frank in the car and they have to escape the police. The chase crashes through the surround sound system, subjecting the viewer to screaming rubber from the tires, more gunfire, growling engines, collisions and hammering music. The camera work for the sequence is exquisite.
Lola complains about Frank’s driving, but he insists on doing things his way so no one gets hurt. She asks where’s the fun in that, and Frank’s line (one of the best under the circumstances) is: “Let’s save the fun for later.” The sequence where the car survives flying through the air from building to building is over the top, but somehow most viewers will be willing to forgive the super heroics because that’s what they’re watching the movie for.
The odds against Frank continue to mount in Chapter 10 as he’s outnumbered and overwhelmed. The exchange between Gianni and Frank is pure pulp, but fits the mood of the movie and feels right. When Frank tells Gianni that he never makes promises he can’t keep, the true action-adventure film devotee is all about waiting to see hell unleashed.
Chapter 11 shows one of the more impossible sequences in the movie as Frank jumps his car through the air and scrapes an explosive device off on a hook. The switch to the comedic interaction with Tarconi leavens the story, allowing a break between the action bits. It also shows how cut off Frank is from any help.
In Chapter 12, Frank uses an iPod, showing how versatile that technology is. Frank’s return to the crime scene at the doctor’s office is a little unbelievable because the scene is vastly underpopulated for such an investigation. However, the action ramps up immediately as Frank begins chasing down the men responsible for Jack’s capture.
The action is relentless at this point. Chapter 13 has increased life and excitement due to the heavy beat throbbing through the subwoofer and surround sound. A handcuffing sequence in Chapter 16, a staff fight and a fight with a fire hose in Chapter 18 have to be seen to be believed. The adrenaline stays maxed out, as does the willing suspension of disbelief, throughout the final minutes of the movie.
The special features are somewhat limited, but worth checking out. “The Making of Transporter 2” is a fun reel to watch. Jason Statham’s reaction to the stunts (which he did himself) is a blast to watch because the audience sees how much fun he actually had on the set. Also, there was no CGI for the stunts; all of the action was driven by what Statham could do himself, which is even more impressive. The music featurette is awesome as well, especially for people who love music and observing how the score is laid out by musicians watching the film. An orchestra was used to bring the music to vibrant life. The highlight of the special features, though, has to be the blooper reel because it’s so off-the-wall. We can only wish for more of it. The deleted scenes actually reveal why they were cut. Most of them splintered or deflected the plot, introducing elements that weren’t needed, or blunting the impact of the action by trying to get deeper into the characters than was necessary. The exchange between Tarconi and Frank in the sequence “The Kiss” is worth watching to see the exchange between those two characters.
“Transporter 2” doesn’t go in for cerebral rewards; it’s all about the action. Viewers expecting something with strong emotion (other than a certain visceral reaction to watching truly evil bad guys getting thumped in myriad ways) won’t enjoy this movie, and the score given above is because “Transporter 2” delivers exactly what it promises it will. Perhaps even some of the action lovers out there will be challenged. However, “Transporter 2” delivers action in spades and keeps on delivering until the end.
The film is recommended to hardcore action film devotees, Jason Statham fans and anybody wanting some real pizzazz in Friday night popcorn features. In addition, the blood is kept at an absolute minimum so even younger kids can enjoy the action and know that it’s pure fantasy.