Hi, folks, and welcome to Chris's Quick-Fixes, a series of short, sharp shock reviews specifically designed to cater for titles that have either slipped through the net, or simply do not warrant the usual in-depth and comprehensive dissection that I would normally bestow. Technical rundowns will, however, still be thorough. Our offering today is Jason Statham's strenuous sequel to his surprisingly enjoyable The Transporter. An early release for the format, Transporter 2 upped the ante stunt-wise and managed to make Statham's ex-Special Forces underworld driver/enforcer all the more likeable a hero.
Still hailing from Luc Besson's original creation, Statham's Frank Martin has now moved operations from the French Riviera to sunny Miami, where a simple job of driving the son of rich and bickering parents, Matthew Modine and Amber Valletta, to and from school somehow results in the kid being snatched by bio-chemical terrorists hell-bent on shooting up the town and spreading germ warfare. However, this is all in a day's work for Statham's tough slap-head. Even before than the credits have begun, our brawny Brit powerhouse has decimated a bunch of wannabe car-jackers and given their young and buxom decoy a newfound desire to pursue her education. So what chance do Alessandro Gassman's Kendo-practising bad guy, Gianni, and his legion of disposable goons stand? Still adhering to his few foolproof rules, Martin will stop at nothing to ensure the safe return of the boy, a surprisingly un-annoying Hunter Clary, and effect the delivery of the antidote for the killer virus that has been unleashed into the hands of the FBI.
“You really want to play superhero, don't you? Well ... let's see if you can fly!”
British knucklehead Jason Statham was, until Daniel Craig buffed-up for Bond, our chief beefcake export. What he lacked in charm and versatility, he more than made up for in punishing action-man brutality and pure adrenaline and, come to think of it, there is always something more dynamic about a British hero using his fists than any American counterpart. Perhaps it is because they are so rare to come by, but the sound of a cockney accent (even if it tries to sound American) and a dearth of inane wisecracks just makes such a character all the more appealing. With his sly and understated way with minimalist dialogue and roguish, wrong-side-of-the-tracks demeanour, Statham is the bad lad made good. When it is all going pear-shaped, you don't want a copper - even Martin Riggs has got to fill out reports at the end of the day - you want someone as fearless and determined as adrenaline-junkie Frank to sort things out. Quick on his toes, but warp-factor on wheels, he can take out squads of villains with the aid of boats, paint-buckets, poles, fire-hoses, bead curtains and, oh yes, his bare hands ... all without ruining his suit. And let's not forget that incredible M:I-3 pilfered phial-scampering amid the roaring traffic to keep the pulse pounding!
Far more over-the-top than the first film and, consequently, more enjoyable, Transporter 2 hits all the right buttons and is a testosterone-soaked slice of “back from the pub” movie-mayhem. No airs and graces, no wit or intelligence in the screenplay department, no middle-ground between cause and effect, plot or motivation - what more could you ask for from a kick-ass, balls-out action flick? Taking the outrageous stunts from James Bond - cars leap between buildings and Statham even finds the time to catch hold of a speeding plane amid a welter of poor, but fun, CG - and mixing in an incredibly choreographed selection of pure Jackie Chan-inspired set-tos and tussles, director Louis Leterrier's escapist blast pummels the eye with virtually non-stop, impact-heavy melees and turbo-charged auto-aggression. The lines are ridiculous - check out the terrifically deadpan reply Statham gives to Amber Valletta's mistakenly relieved mum upon the supposedly save return of her son, “Jack's been infected with a deadly virus, Audrey” he growls from beneath his almost painted-on stubble - and it is getting slightly irritating seeing his old Lock, Stock pal Jason Flemying getting another free ticket to Hollywood, but the resulting movie is a sheer blast of madcap adrenal anarchy that you can't help falling for.
“Respect the car. Respect the man.”
The biological terrorism plot is largely redundant, with the child-kidnapping angle naturally far more emotive, even if it is ultimately a short-lived element. But the fact is that we don't really need a reason to have Frank take off in single-minded pursuit of uber-sexy assassins clad only in Anne Summers' lingerie, and a gang of bizarre-accented minions who wield anything from guns and knives to axes and germ-laden hypodermics. Just tell us that they are bad guys and that'll be enough. Honest. And Statham delivers the baddie-battering goods with smirk-inducing aplomb. Definitely a hero forged from the beery fantasies of a gang of mates crowded around a telly after a few pints and a pizza, Frank Martin moves like a freight train, kicks like a mule on steroids and drives hot cars like a speed-demon. He is the Bond that the “club-it kids” aspire to be - not working for the government, a code and morals that he makes up along the way and a sure-fire, devastating, “don't-mess-with-me” attitude that sees him walking casually up to a gunman letting off reckless rounds at him down a corridor with just the odd shrug of a broad shoulder to avoid those pesky bullets. Plus ... he doesn't have any of those emotional hang-ups or haunting memories that plague all the more righteous do-gooders out there saving the world. It is all about cool ... and even if Jason Statham is no Steve McQueen, he sure epitomises the tough-guy archetype with enough capability, icy calm and supreme confidence to win over even the harshest of action-hero critics.
Set to a persistent soundtrack that is either techno or frenzied rock, the film fairly fizzes with crazed determination to engage the primal senses rather than the brain, Frank's undeniable intelligence sharpened to the point of super-instinct rather than a Jason Bourne-style “thinking ahead of the enemy” trick. Check out his expert timing and aerodynamic skills at removing a bomb lodged on the underside of his car, for instance. If things get a tad bogged down with mom and dad moping around at home with only Keith (The Thing) David's FBI hostage team for company, then you can count on Frank to hijack a jet-ski, alongside its shapely owner, and spume his way after a bad guy riding on the back door of a bus. But, as daft and as irresponsible as all this sounds, Statham just about keeps the derring-do grounded with a cool, dry-humoured matter-of-factness that just endears him all the more. Ace-driver, die-hard brawler, sharp-suited free-runner and effective marriage guidance counsellor. And who says men can't multi-task?
Stupid, it most certainly is, but Transporter 2 is still a gut-punching breeze of thrills and spills. Thoroughly entertaining.
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