(director: Louis Leterrier; screenwriters: Luc Besson/Robert Mark Kamen; cinematographer: C. Mitchell Amundsen; editors: Christine Lucas-Navarro/Vincent Tabaillon; music: Alexandre Azaria; cast: Jason Statham (Frank Martin), Alessandro Gassman (Gianni), Amber Valletta (Audrey Billings), Kate Nauta (Lola), Matthew Modine (Mr. Jeff Billings), Jason Flemyng (Dimitri), François Berléand (Inspector Tarconi), Keith David (Stappleton), Hunter Clary (Jack Billings), Shannon Briggs (Max), Tim Ware (Hoffman); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Luc Besson/Steve Chasman; 20th Century Fox; 2005-France/USA-in English, French and Italian with English subtitles )

“A James Bond-type of escapist fantasy film for those who can’t get enough trashy action when 007 is not on the screen.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A James Bond-type of escapist fantasy film for those who can’t get enough trashy action when 007 is not on the screen. This is a sequel from the 2002 film and evidently hopes its British star Jason Statham will transport it into a lasting money making franchise (the awful original was a box office smash), using its highly choreographed Hong Kong action sequences (with the martial arts created by artistic director Cory Yuento) to excite a ready-made audience for such a mindless B film. Not expecting much, I was not disappointed. Its best quality is that there’s no pretensions in its ridiculous cartoonish adventure story that is slickly drawn up as if it were a video game. Luc Besson is co-writer with Robert Mark Kamen, while Louis Leterrier directs.

Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is a mercenary for hire as a transporter, with a Special Forces background as an operative, who takes a temp job in Miami as a driver for DEA drug czar Jeff Billings (Matthew Modine) and his wife Audrey (Amber Valletta), whose main job is driving their 6-year-old son Jack (Hunter Clary) to school in a state-of-the-art black Audi A8.

The action warms up as the taciturn Frank foils a car jacking by kicking the ass of the four blacks and a scantily dressed blonde trying to pull the job. That’s only a warmup for what comes next, as it’s not long before bioterrorists try to inject Jack with a deadly airborne virus, that Frank foils in the medical office of the tyke’s regular doctor who was overcome by the terrorists. But this tough leggy chick Lola (Kate Nauta), who digs waving her guns in the air while strolling around town in lingerie and red stilettos, gets the drop on Jack as he reaches the gate of the Billings’ estate and kidnaps both driver and kid. The boss behind this kidnapping is a psychopath named Gianni (Alessandro Gassman, Vittorio’s son), who lets on he’s been hired by the Colombian drug cartel and his aim is not for ransom but to infect the kid’s father so when he attends a drug conference he will kill anyone who comes into contact with him. We are led to believe that the virus that infects Jack, will infect his parents. As expected, Frank must come to the tyke’s rescue (someone he formed a close bond with and promised no harm will come to him) and save all the politicos from this unique assassination attempt (which makes no sense). Frank gets help with the arrival of his friend from France, Inspector Tarconi (François Berléand), who while arrested by the U.S. marshal’s for being associated with Frank, who they think might be part of the kidnapping scheme, wins them over with his French cooking and has freedom to operate undetected in the police office where they keep their security database computers. This gives Frank vital info while he’s in-between spectacular car chases or shootouts or jumping a jet ski onto the freeway or escaping with only a few facial scrapes from a downed jet that went into the drink.

The time passes very quickly in this efficiently made superhero thriller, whose best asset is Statham (he even performs almost all his own stunts and his limited acting range is masked by the steady flow of action). He’s up to the physicality of the part, and is quite charming going through his dead-pan routine. The lad seems up to saving the world from the baddies, and I guess it can’t do any harm of being reassured about that in the movies as America currently reels from the botched Iraq War and equally botched efforts to deal with the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Katrina.