Cinema Signal:

Fighting Science:
The Laws of Physics for Martial Artists

. "The Transporter"

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 be.

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.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

The Soundtrack Album


Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
Very well written
I'll recommend this reviewer
Site rating: 9

I like this reviewer. Unlike many of the others at major newspapers, he doesn't take the movie too seriously. Its supposed to be mindless fun not "Schindler's List." The plot was thin, the action/fighting sequences were really good and Jason Statham is cool. This is coming from a girl who doesn't really watch action movies but at least knows when to recognize something as just popcorn fun.

                                     ~~ gapal
Well written
Site rating: 8

I agree with this movie But I love that song at the end of the movie and I would like to know who preformed it and sings it.

                                     ~~ Alan M.
[Ed. note: Use the Soundtrack link above and, if you recall the title of the song, you'll have your group! Buy it and you'll have the music.]

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Jason Statham and his package, Shu Qi
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