By all justice left in the world, the original "The Transporter" should be remembered as the definative "guy movie" in it's year of release. Unfortunately, the concept of "2002 guy movies" are haunted by the fetid spectre of the infamous Vin Diesel abortion "XXX." After audiences reacted largely with (charitable) apathy to that would-be "this guy is cool!" franchise-starter, the prospects for another "this guy is cool!" actioner were understandably limited. Still, enough action fans turned out for it to turn a respectable profit, and on word of mouth it wound up as a DVD smash hit.
Part of the reason for that is that it was a truly great action film, an expertly paced showcase of stunts, fights and chases anchored by a stiflingly cool lead performance from Jason Statham... perhaps the unlikeliest actor to emerge as a martial-arts star in recent history.
But a bigger part, I believe, was the curious way in which the film chose to define it's lead character, Frank Martin (Statham.) Specifically... he's not "defined" much at all. His surface... the shaved head, the cold stare, the impeccable black suit and the superhuman kung-fu skills... suggest a crossbreeding of Bruce Willis, James Bond and Jackie Chan, yes. But as far as details go, we learn ONLY that Martin is a BSAF veteran turned ultra-efficient wheelman-for-hire who likes schedules, luxury cars and comfortable living. Beyond that, he's nearly a perfect cipher, and I believe this to be the key: It's incredibly easy for the mind's eye to replace Martin with oneself, and it elevated "The Transporter" from just another action piece to a kind of vicarious-enjoyment dynamo.
This sequel finds Frank unchanged but the environment completely new: He's relocated from France to Miami, and scored a legal assingment as chauffer for the preschool-aged son of the U.S. Drug Czar (Matthew Modine.) The ruthlessly-efficient screenplay has the poor kid kindapped almost immediately, leaving Frank on the run as the prime suspect and, of course, bound by his famously unbreakable word to rescue him.
The real culprits are... well, thats actually sort of a surprise, as is the motive in what turns out to be a fairly twisty plot. Just know that Frank will be provided plenty of hired goons to tear apart in ever-more-creative ways (choreography by Corey Yuen of the famous Yuen stunt family,) including a sociopath female asassin who does her fighting while dressed like a moderately-priced crack whore. And he'll once again have back up of sorts from the original film's comic-relief French cop, who cuts his Miami vacation short to lend a hand and provide winking references to the original film (these DVDs need to start coming with coupons for madilene biscuits.)
As with before, the big showpieces are the unlikely but none the less impressive action and fight sequences. Truth be told, nothing can really hope to top the original's famous "oil fight," but this one gives it it's best shot. A firehose battle, a fistfight on a crashing plane and Frank's creative solution to a bomb on his car earned applause at my screening, I can report.
Audiences in general and action fans in particular have had to endure a lot of mediocrity this summer, but here's at least an actioner that delivers the goods with minimal hiccups. Reccomended, especially for fans of the first.
FINAL RATING: 7/10