Transporter 2 – Twice the Action, Twice the Thrills

Tagline: The Best in the Business is Back in the Game.

There’s something inherently thrilling about watching the hero of an action movie defy the conventional rules which govern our mundane world. Whether it’s sliding down an elevator shaft, fighting a dozen men at once, or jumping off a cliff and grabbing onto a passing helicopter, we’re always ready to suspend our disbelief and live vicariously through these men of action. But our suspension of disbelief can only be stretched so far, and Transporter 2 stretches it way beyond the point of breaking.

Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is a transporter; a former special forces operative who lives by a strict code of behavior. As the movie opens, we find him in Miami, doing a favor for an old friend. That favor consists of carrying young Jack Billings to and from school. Jack is the son of Mr. Billings (Matthew Modine), a powerful U.S. official. And when Mr. Billings and his beautiful wife Audrey (Amber Valletta) aren’t arguing, she’s confiding in Frank and giving him a serious dose of bedroom eyes. Meanwhile, an old friend, Tarconi ( Francois Berleand-reprising his role from the first film), has come to Miami to spend his vacation with Frank. But things take a turn for the worse when mercenaries kidnap Jack, and Frank is forced to spring into action in order to keep a promise.

While I loved the original Transporter, I can’t exactly say the same about the sequel. The first film was a breath of fresh air, with inventive fight scenes and well-choreographed stunts. Sure, it was a little over the top, but what action movie isn’t? And Jason Statham was in fine form, showing off tons of charisma and a physique made for action movies. Frank took his lumps along the way, but you knew he’d come out on top in the end.

In Transporter 2, Frank might as well wear a cape and a giant ‘S’ on his chest. Instead of a hero who seems a little in over his head, we get someone who seems to constantly have the bad guys on the run. Even when he’s surrounded by a dozen goons wielding machine guns, we get the feeling that they’re the ones in trouble.

Take, for example, the scene in which Frank is speeding along in his car, a bomb strapped to the bottom. Frank knows the bomb is there. He knows he has precious seconds before it explodes. He could jump out of the car or simply pull over and run for his life, but that would mean that he’d be stranded on foot. And this is the Transporter that we’re talking about. Taking away his car would be like taking away Schwarzenagger’s biceps. So what does he do?

Well, Frank puts the pedal to the floor, speeding straight towards a giant crane in the distance. He hits a ramp (amazing how ramps are always present in action movies) and the car begins the process of rolling 360 degrees. Of course, Frank has timed it so that the hook of the crane will catch hold of the bomb as the car rolls and rip it off. It does, and, as the bomb explodes, Frank is still flying through the air, well on his way to completing his 360 and landing safely on the ground.

Inventive? Yes. Ridiculous? Ditto. (Hey, I think I just summed up the movie.) And that’s just one of many. I’ll spare you the others.

And then there are the plot holes. Granted, the first movie has its share (like, why is the daughter of the crime boss being transported around in a bag?), but the sequel seems intent on outdoing it’s predecessor on every front.Like, for example, the elaborate plot to infect all the participants of a drug-enforcement conference with a lethal virus. Aren’t there simpler ways to do it than to infect the child of the keynote speaker and count on him to pass it along to his father?And the main villain in the film, Gianni, (Alessandro Gassman) wants to hide the viral antidote somewhere safe, so he has it injected into his blood stream to be retrieved later. Now, I’m no scientific genius, but that doesn’t sound possible to me, especially if the villain wants to live through the process.

The ultimate blame for these flaws can be attributed to the Luc Besson/Robert Mark Kamen script. It manages to reduce all of the characters to action movie cliches. The script supposes that everyone has seen the first film, so very little effort is made to develop the character of Frank (aside from a few nice scenes with Jack and Audrey). Francois Berleand (as Tarconi) was excellent in the first film, but here he is reduced to the role of comic relief, spending the bulk of the film in a police station. Matthew Modine plays the generic neglectful husband – a role which thoroughly wastes his talents as an actor. Even when his character has a change of heart, the script completely drops the ball and rushes through the scene. Amber Valletta is stunning in the film, but she is given little to do besides look gorgeous and concerned at the same time. And the villains are a complete waste of time, which is a shame since the first film had a couple of solid heavies in the forms of Ric Young and Matt Schulze.

And while we’re on the subject of villains, here’s a suggestion to filmmakers across the globe. While casting someone like Kate Nauta (Lola) may help generate some buzz for your film, waifish models aren’t particularly menacing, no matter how many guns they’re sporting. And if you’re simply looking for someone to up the sex factor of the movie, try casting someone who has breasts bigger than a 7th grade girl. Let’s just hope that Kate Moss doesn’t turn up in the next Die Hard movie.

But despite all its problems, Transporter 2 does manage to entertain on a basic level. Fans of the original get to see Frank in action again, while newcomers will be treated to some insane stunts and lots of gunplay. And from supermodels to professional boxers (Shannon Briggs), lots of familiar faces turn up, including Jason Flemyng, Statham’s old Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels castmate.