2008, PG-13, 100 min. Directed by Olivier Megaton. Starring Jason Statham, Natalya Rudakova, François Berléand, Robert Knepper, Jeroen Krabbé, Timo Dierkes, David Atrakchi.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 28, 2008
Statham has become something of a poor man's James Bond via this international action smorgasbord franchise, and frankly, I'm all for it. Statham's Frank Martin, a stoically unflappable transporter of illicit goods (who sports abs that rival freshly minted 007 Daniel Craig) is neither stirred nor shaken; he simply is. No messy romantic backstory here. Just automotive and martial-arts mayhem plain and simple, with the occasional and always welcome appearance of Martin's comic foil, Marseilles Detective Tarconi (Berléand). All three films are the brainchildren of Luc Besson, who seems to have nothing much else to do these days but pen testosterone-fueled action comedies (such as the endearingly daft Taxi series, which is essentially the Transporter with, you know, taxis) and testosterone-fueled action uncomedies (the exhilarating District B13 and the vicious Danny the Dog). Besson's last directing gigs were the tepid, lame Angel-A and the forgettable kids film Arthur and the Invisibles, so maybe we should count our V-8 blessings and pray he keeps to the keyboard in lieu of the lens. In the meantime, Transporter 3 is terrifically stupid fun, in the very best (or worst, depending on your tolerance for this sort of thing) sense. Like everything Besson has a hand in, it smacks of post-globalization Euro-cool, most breathtakingly in the person of Statham's co-star and eye candy, Rudakova, who, if the press-kit hype is to be believed, was working in a Manhattan salon where she was spotted by one of Besson's casting crew. Ukrainian girls get all the breaks (lucky us). As Valentina, the kidnapped daughter of the Ukrainian environmental minister (Krabbé), she's Martin's "package," due to die (or maybe not – plotting has never been an exact science in the Transporter films) at the hands of a cadaverous baddie (Knepper). But hey, this is Besson – even if the whipcord direction is credited to Megaton – and so before death must come 1) oodles of Audi S8 car porn, 2) Frank Martin pursuing an Audi S8 on a BMX, and 3) Valentina liquored up and rolling balls out on Ecstasy while her perpetually cranky driver tries valiantly not to lick the freckles off her face. Tough gig, I know, but someone's gotta do it, and it obviously isn't going to be Daniel Craig. Transporter 3 is so far over the top that it more than once spills into outright cartoonishness, but only Besson could pen dialogue such as, "His beloved automobile will be his grave," and make you guffaw at the whole mad, mock-serious world of cars, girls, and balding antiheroes in their awesome Audi S8s. Trés sublime.