The Transporter is part of the new wave of action movies influenced by Hong Kong. Choreographed fight scenes are the centerpiece, and the movie has plenty of gun battles and explosions too. If you enjoy that kind of movie like I do, then you’re in for a treat. There are some flaws, like the distracting fight photography and the intrusive, immature score, but it has such infectious energy that it’s impossible not to like.
Rule Number 1
PG-13 for violence, sensuality
Jason Statham, (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch), plays Frank, although he prefers not to use any names at all. Frank is a retired American Marine living on the French Riviera. He is an independent transporter. You tell him the size and weight of the item, the departure and destination points. He’ll tell you the price and deliver your item to the destination, no questions asked.
For example, if you want to be transported in a great hurry from, say, a bank to a secret hideout, with two other men and a large sack, that might cost you 60,000.
Frank has three rules. Rule number 1, no changing the deal. Rule number 2, no names. Rule number 3, never open the package.
The first job in the film demonstrates how it’s supposed to work. Frank insists on sticking to his rules, and so he manages to deliver the package to the right place at the right time. Lucky for the audience, the first delivery involves an adrenaline-pounding car chase edited to hip-hop music.
A Nick in the Glass
On the next job, Frank notices that the package squirms. He makes the mistake of taking pity on the package and opening it up to give it a drink. The package is Lai (Qi Shu), a pretty Chinese girl who ultimately works her way under Frank’s gloss-black bulletproof exterior.
Although he eventually delivers her to the destination, he made the fatal mistake of breaking his own rules. It proves to be the nick in the glass that grows into a long crack that ruins the whole windshield.
His slip-up gets him in trouble with the local criminal element. A little mistake here leads to retribution there. A little self-defense here leads to revenge there. Before long Frank has lost his car, his house, and nearly his life in an explosive battle with the local mob.At least he wins the affection of Lai, which he values more than he realizes.
I often complain that an action movie is “too much plot, not enough action.” The Transporter is the first action film in a long time for which I don’t have that complaint. From the opening car chase to the greased-up fistfight, The Transporter is one excuse after another for an action sequence. Sometimes the excuses are pretty flimsy and sometimes the action is pretty over-the-top — that’s a polite way of saying “implausible” — but The Transporter is the kind of movie that says “so what?”
The fight scenes are well choreographed by director Corey Yuen. One position leads smoothly through some action moves to another position, on and on until someone wins the fight.
Its action sequences are too exhaustingly energetic to be dismissed. The scene that won me over was the fight in the bus depot. The fight went on for several minutes and was just starting to drag when Frank upended a big barrel of grease, changing the dynamics of the battle.
In spite of their infectious energy, the action scenes do deserve a little criticism. The fights are shot from so many different “creative” angles that it’s hard to follow what’s going on. I’d rather see the grace of the actors and stuntmen than the cleverness of the cinematographer, particularly when the fight choreography is as good as it is in this film.
Although the score is immature and unsubtle, and the editor and cinematographer occasionally get in the way of the fight choreography, Yuen did a fine job of bringing The Transporter to the screen. He acknowledges that some people complain that these films have “too much plot, not enough action” and stays accordingly focused.