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TRANSPORTER, THE(director: Corey Yuen; screenwriter: Luc Besson/Robert Mark Kamen; cinematographer: Pierre Morel; editor: Nicolas Trembasiewicz; music: Stanley Clarke; cast: Jason Statham (Frank), Qi Shu (Lai), Matt Schulze (Wall Street), François Berléand (Tarconi), Ric Young (Mr. Kwai), Didier Saint Melin (Boss), Doug Rand (Leader); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Steve Chasman/David Lai/Luc Besson; 20th Century Fox; 2002-France)
“It’s probably not easy to make such a worthless film …”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s probably not easy to make such a worthless film, and once promising French filmmaker and writer Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita”) should receive proper credit for turning in such a ludicrous and humorless script and finding a renewed life in films by now producing a number of such mindless action flicks and giving up for the time being on any serious attempts at filmmaking. The Transporter is a totally unbelievable action film, much in the same mode as those Hollywood escapist blockbuster films and those Hong Kong action flicks it ably imitates. It’s also another in a long line of James Bond wannabes that fail because they’re just so crass. This one is for those who don’t mind a clichéd, predictable, action venture without much of a plot, as long as its fast-paced and the action is continuous. Here there’s no notable dialogue; it’s all martial arts fights, car chases, rocket launchers, and high-powered machine-gun shootouts. This standard plot for this genre keys in on a rogue ex-military character, Frank Martin (Jason Statham), who even though he’s a criminal is thrust into a heroic role as he single-handedly stops a human smuggling organization in its tracks. There are no surprises, the viewer is left to only gush over how the athletic Frank will get the upper-hand on the cartoonish baddies and give them their just desserts. The Transporter just couldn’t generate any interest in the story through the bland leads and the sheer stupidity of its incredulous story. But if you like to see car chases and lots of action calling for stuntmen and a number of people getting blown to smithereens and a smooth hero kick box his way out of a jam with no complicated questions asked, then this ride into fantasy land might be just the thing for your idle brain.

Director Cory Yuen, a Hong Kong action veteran filmmaker, knows how to handle such an action demanding script, one that requires nothing from its characters except for the heroine to look as beautiful as does the Taiwanese actress Qi Shu as she plays Lai, a victim of a kidnapping who is rescued by the laconic Frank. While Statham has to show his muscles and his hard-edged attitude, but there’s never any proof offered that he can act. The filmmaker asks the viewer to accept its modern-type of amoral hero who really is not such a bad guy just because he abets criminals, but is just someone who has some issues from his military days that the film never gets around to revealing. But the story was so ridiculous anyway, it would seem a waste of time to question anything about it.

Frank is a former British military medalist who quietly lives in France’s Côte d’Azur in a big house with his valuable BMW, where he makes big money to supplement his army retirement by taking on illegal transporting jobs of packages that he asks no questions about. He lives by three unbreakable work rules: never change the deal, never look in the package, and no names. But on one mission he breaks rule Number Two and he peeks inside a squirming duffel bag. Inside the package he’s about to deliver to an unknown party is the sexy hostage Lai. The recipients of the package feel its their obligation to kill him for breaking one of the rules he himself set, and it then becomes a battle of Frank and Lai against the baddies. There’s one twist in the end, as it turns out her father is one of the baddies and is the one who ordered her kidnapped to prevent her from running her mouth about a large group of Chinese who are being smuggled into the country and are being forced into slavery to pay off their passage.

Not much of a story, but who watches a film like this for the story. It’s how stylishly the action scenes are carried out and how mind-blowing it all is. The only thing this film gave me was a headache, since I didn’t find Statham to have much charisma and the lovely Qi Shu was just lovely — no more. She was a good substitute for looking at the BMW, which I also found lovely to look at.

REVIEWED ON 10/19/2002 GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”