After being started as a franchise that sought to teach James Bond how to kick butt, in the post kick-butt Bond reboot, Transporter 3 now seeks to head towards a darker, gloomier ground uncharitably dumping the very gleefully mad and frantic tone that made the franchise great popcorn fun.
When Frank (Jason Statham) passes on a job, his recommended alternate is killed by the dastardly Johnson (Robert Knepper), and he is coerced into accepting the job of transporting Valentina (Natalya Rudakova), the kidnapped daughter of the head of the EPA in Ukraine. Only, this time he has a bomb attached to his wrist, which will explode if he so much as ventures beyond 75 feet of his car.
Along the way, with the help of Inspector Tarconi (Francois Berleand returning to another thankless role), Frank has to contend with the Johnson's men, some agents sent by the father, and the general non-cooperation of his cargo. So, as plot goes, it isn't exactly rocket science, but that's the beauty of the Transporter flicks - you expect bare minimum exposition, and you get exactly that.
The McVeggie to the Bond film's proper meal, the Transporter series has always been the kind of films that were atrociously good, and remained happy to be meaningless diversions, based entirely around their monotone leading man, his quaint breed of duplicitous yet effective fisticuffs, and the inventive and hair-breadth-distanced escapes from death. They have always been ultra-energetic, adrenaline-filled rides full of vigor, color and a healthy dose of the ludicrous stemming from the warped brains of Luc Besson.
They have never been high art, but their charm remained in being the cool trendy and very different take on action guy flicks, a long shot away from the studio-fied action pap that we had to endure. And while the studios have twigged on to this delirious form of action and have tried to bring that in, Transporter 3 marks a turn in the franchise towards a neo-gritty alley with more emphasis on close encounters of the fisticuffs kind â€¦and talking.
Lots and lots of talking.
This wouldn't have been a very bad thing, but the level of writing remains as poor as the first day Luc Besson thought of a guy driving a car as his hero. The action on the other hand has been dialed down to slightly less ridiculous, which I am afraid simply won't cut it. There is no way you can make a Transporter movie fun without going all out and absolutely demolishing all semblance of logic.
Trying to keep the thrills on an even keel with some studio-mandated logic is the kind of pointless decision that leads to Transporter 3, a film that is filled with so much could have been than can. The action still could have served well, but it is condemned with Camille Delamarre and Carlo Rizzo's confounded editing. Flash cuts and terrible shaky cam movements punctuate the action as needlessly as a Booker winner.
Not only does it make it difficult to follow what is going on, it also robs Frank of the fluidity of movement that he so clearly showcased in the earlier films. Even the on-wheel sections suffer from this case of hesitation. The action's giddiness is marred by the editing so much that a few of the inspired moments are now completely forgotten by me.
A Transporter film is a guilty pleasure to look forward to. Transporter 3 struggles to be even a good timepass. I looked forward to a fun day at the movies, but this is not that - this is the kind of film that you watch because you didn't get tickets for something better. I do hope Frank returns in more completely vertiginous hands; until such time I need to wash this taste out with re-watches of the first two.