From Chinese actor-director Corey Yuen and French writer-producer Luc Besson
(wrote and directed "Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" with Milla
Jovovich), comes this martial arts chop socky exploitation film that offers
some outstanding work in a very familiar package. These participants know
how the genre contributes to the international bottom line: the smashing and
slashing intensity of combat, car and helicopter chases, and explosions that
demolish boxoffices so well all over the globe.
And, in these days of aging supermuscled superhero actors, others are being
found to take their place. Vin Diesel in "XXX" for
one. Jason Statham as "The Transporter" for another. Statham is close
cropped, muscular and quick. He's also a charismatic actor with a number of
skills that fit everything called for in this film formula without bumps or
air pockets. You don't question his Special Forces training.
As a transporter, Frank Martin (Statham) moves things. He makes pickups; he
makes deliveries. There's no regard for legalities, but he insists on his
rules at all times. The first instance of his work involves picking up 3
men in front of a bank. That they left the bank in great haste with big
sacks of cash is no concern. What is of concern, however, is that there's a
fourth man in the car, and that is not the understanding. Rule
#1, Never change the deal.
He won't move the car until and unless all the parameters of the contract are
met. Finally, as the cops are bearing down, the leader of the bank team,
desperate for a getaway and finally understanding his options, shoots one of
the men, shoves him out of the car, and the transporter is off. Through the
streets we go, in a long, superbly choreographed chase with some quite
original twists to a very familiar type of action.
The hairy chase is a display of Martin's driving skills and abilities to
solve immediate and fast moving problems, like sudden obstacles. His Grand
Prix driving allows for no uncertainties and he remains in cool control at
all times, earning our fascination. Not yet our sympathies, but it's only
the opening sequence.
Some pretty bad boys are interested in the services Martin provides and he
soon takes on another job delivering a package. The trouble here is that
it's a bumpy one and sort of soft and... it moves. When he breaks the second
of his cardinal rules (never look in the package) and unzips it, out pops the
head of impish, adorable Lai (Qi Shu) with a slice of duct tape sealing her
lips. When they finally are unsealed, we see how utterly sensual lips can
Well, Martin doesn't yet. He again controls his cool, exerting a forceful
mind over matter discipline in the proprieties of his work ethic. But he's
faced here with what is probably the most enticing package he's ever
delivered. Or, not delivered. And she's trouble, involved with an evil
underworld of smuggling and human suffering in some way Martin has yet to
dope out. When he helps her, who is he hurting? Himself and his business,
for sure. Is it worth it? You decide.
The skills of filmmaking are consistent with those of the protagonists and
antagonists, which we have in abundance. Camerawork by Pierre Morel and
sharp editing by Nicolas Trembasiewicz are major components of the swift
energy of the film.
This is pretty well balanced story material, developing a couple of original
characters amidst the speed and the trajectories of mayhem, not the least of
which is Francois Berleand as inspector Tarconi, a laid back agent of the law
who tends to see the big picture while searching for meaning in the life and
living habits of so unique a man as Martin. He hasn't seen him drive, but he
senses something special that could be a connection to other matters in his
area of concern.
From his fine work in the brilliant, "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels"
and "Snatch", with ample immersion in the serious business of underworld
activity with a side dish of humor, Englishman Statham demands major
attention in this pastiche of Jackie Chan, Lethal Weapon and James Bond.
We say welcome to this new kick-ass action hero who is making a name for
himself with this pic.
Unfortunately, the promise of the first half is not fulfilled in the last,
where the originality peters out. Even the bad guys go from palpable threats
to cardboard cutouts of typical chop-socky schlock. But, then, you at least
have the boy-girl adventure element, which, while it works okay for this
particular boy and girl, fails to revive our level of esteem for the film's
early injections of inventive fun.
~~ Jules Brenner