Rated PG-13, 88 min. Directed by Louis Leterrier. Starring Jason Statham, Alessandro Gassman, Amber Valletta, Kate Nauta, Matthew Modine, Jason Flemyng, Keith David, François Berléand.
While some might complain that this sequel to the Luc Besson-scripted, Cory Yuen-helmed 2002 smash sleeper is simply too outrageous to believe, that sounds uncomfortably close to sending your bowl of panang back to the Thai chef because it’s too damn spicy. Transporter 2 is vapid, lunatic fun: all action, all the time, with no pauses to catch your breath, or, more significantly, to figure out what’s going on. Having discarded entirely of even the closest semblance of reality, Statham’s ex-Special Forces driver-for-hire Frank Martin is twice daily ferrying the precocious offspring of Modine’s high-level DEA official to a Miami Beach Montessori school. When the tyke is kidnapped by Colombian crime lord Gianni (Gassman) and his improbably leggy moll Lola (supermodel/singer Nauta) as part of an elaborate, international hit on the global drug-enforcement community, the ever-loyal Frank lets loose an equally elaborate series of pursuits, all while keeping his trademark black suit as immaculate as James Bond’s martini. For all its gimmicky mayhem, Transporter 2 is something of a marked improvement over the original, setting aside such yawn-inducing cinematic standbys as a romantic interest (here the driver loves only his car, an Audi A8 L W12, replacing The Transporter’s BMW 645Ci convertible) as well as even nominal brushes with reality (as when Frank disables an underchassis bomb by rocketing his ride off a pier and catching a glancing blow across his undercarriage from a crane’s winch-hook while spiraling through the very wild blue yonder). Go, speed, go! Still, those who like their action to abide by the laws of physics will find the CGI-assisted set-pieces of stunt director Corey Yuen (who helmed the original film) outlandish and wholly unbelievable. There comes a point when Frank the Driver transforms into a Nietzschean Frank the übermensch, stolidly chasing down his quarry (including Snatch co-star Flemyng as an unhinged Russian thug) as all around him dissolves into tightly edited operatic chaos. Able to dodge bullets with a single bound, fly and leap over tall buildings (in his Audi, natch) while remaining as stiff-upper-lipped as a freshly Blitzed Brit, taciturn and stoic to the core, Frank is as close to the robotic Terminator as you can come without actually being mechanized. Statham long ago mastered the art of cool, but here he’s downright frozen. You can tell this guy means business by the contents of his refrigerator: exactly three Heinekens, straight, no chaser, unless you count the honey squeezy-bear sitting beside them. Frank’s seeming imperviousness to peril, unfortunately, means that midway through Transporter 2 you begin to wonder what all the hubub’s about. After all, if the hero has no fatal flaw, no Achilles' heel, then what’s the point? Apart from cutting a stylishly bloody swath across the screen and looking flash as the Clash while pummeling the less sartorially inclined into so much hamburger, there’s not much to this knight errant insofar as I can discern. Poor Frank doesn’t even get the girl – one’s married, and the other, the psychopathic Lola, is torn between her trigger finger and the Tae Bo-happy Gianni. The only glimmer of actual characterization in the entire film comes – all too briefly – from Frank’s old boss Inspector Tarconi (Berléand), who arrives in Miami on vacation and quickly finds himself chastising the local police for their pathetic lack of culinary talents. Forget the driver, already. I’d rather watch Le Chef.
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