More noise than signal

Transporter 2

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com

In most senses, Transporter 2, perhaps the least necessary sequel the world has ever seen, delivers what you expect of it. It’s about as mad as the proverbial bag of spiders, and is so far away from realism that I firmly suspect it doesn’t even know what real is. If you actually want a good action film, well, Batman Begins is just out on DVD. If you think you might be interested in what can be best described as an unholy hybrid of Commando, a sitcom and a surrealist’s nightmare then Transporter 2 might not be the waste of time I assume it’s been reviewed elsewhere as.

Frank Martin (Jason Statham) returns as the titular Transporter, elite driver and stoically assured ex-Special Forces hardcase. Upping sticks to Miami, he finds himself temporarily doing school run duties for Jack (Hunter Clary), son of U.S. Drug Tzar Billings (Matthew Modine) as a favour to a friend. Wouldn’t you know it, he winds up embroiled in a sinister plot of much sinistertude as despite sterling efforts the kid is kidnapped by forces reporting to Gianni (Alessandro Gassman). Of course, a simple ransom demand is nothing close to silly enough for inclusion in this film so some nonsense is tacked on about a deadly virus with Jack being used as an ordnance delivery vector to wipe out the attendees of a Drug Tzar conference at the behest of Columbian drug barons, presumably irked that their self granted rank of Tzar outranks theirs.

All of which might seem somewhat convoluted, and it would be if this wasn’t nonsense wasn’t scraped so thinly as a linking device over the action setpieces as to be transparent in direct sunlight. Wiser men than I have said that this is what you’d expect if you asked a twelve year old to write an action film, and indeed it’s easy to imagine a first draft of this script written as one uninterrupted sentence with each clause linked by “and then what happens was”. Models run around in bra and panties with infinitely ammo-ed sub-machine guns, Frank does ridiculous things to an Audi with God Mode enabled, fights occur almost randomly with randomly selected weaponry and everything up to and including billboards will explode. So what were saying is that it’s not awfully sensible, but neither was xXx 2, nor any James Bond outing, nor pretty much any action film you care to mention.

Transporter 2 is perhaps unique in that it makes no attempt whatsoever at any point in the film to be on even nodding terms with believability. It unilaterally takes the concept of realism and defenestrates it from the top floor of Canary Wharf. This is not necessarily a good thing.

As such, the largely CGI driving stunts are utterly ludicrous. Case in point, rather that just shooting Frank at one point, Gianni plants a bomb on the underside of the beloved, much abused Audi, (the product placement of which would be disgusting were the car not so central to the film and we’d been desensitised to this from I, Robot) rather than kill him with the boringly simple way of shooting him. If you’re Frank Martin, the obvious way out of this pickle is, obviously, to drive up a handily placed and angled ramp which launches and rotates the motor into the air, presenting the undercarriage to a fortuitously positioned crane, the lifting hook of which lifts off the bomb while the Audi drops back down to earth unharmed. Note that this is the only time the phrase ‘Down to earth’ will ever be associated with Transporter 2. Awfully silly, yes? This is not necessarily a good thing.

The fight scenes are, for the most part, utterly ludicrous. CG ‘enhanced’ to allow Frank to do a variety of silly things with improvised weaponry, it winds up closer to Stephen Chow’s Shaolin Soccer than the early era Jackie Chan I believe they were aiming for. They’re not utterly without charm, and they’re certainly imaginative. In the hand to hand, rather than hand to computer renderfarm to hand, combat Statham actually does very well. Currently the only British ‘action hero’ doing the rounds, and come to think of it one of the very few worldwide there’s the odd moment here and there where it all comes together and Statham’s assured, no-nonsense confidence, his strange bravado-less bravado just works, somehow. To balance this, Gianni’s thickly accented utterings are almost indecipherable and the script clearly feels that aforementioned bra/panty/SMG-toting Lola (Kate Nauta) is far more alluring that she actually is. This, clearly is not a good thing.

Right then, ludicrous stunts, silly fights, ridiculous script, terrible dialogue. That’s pretty much all there is to Transporter 2. It’s also pretty much all there is to every other action film, but we’re not talking about them at the moment. Catch me in a sober moment and I’ll admit to overrating the original Transporter, but it still does a few things well. The driving scenes have less CG nonsense, the fight scenes are a little more sensible, the plot something less of a veneer. It had a light hearted, juvenile sense of fun about it which appeals to me, although I mainly defend it because my compatriots on this site loathed it, and given our near unilateral agreement on most films’ merits these differences fascinate me.

Which is neither here nor there, apart from to lead to the unsurprising conclusion that those who hated the first film will hate this. I expect this is because they expected an action film and did not find one; I expected a comedy and found that. This isn’t an action film, it’s a parody of one. It’s screaming out for a cameo by Leslie Nielsen. Returning to that Jackie Chan / Stephen Chow reference, this really is the (admittedly poor man’s) Kung Fu Hustle to, say, Commando‘s The Young Master. Of course, Transporter 2 isn’t anything like good enough to belong to that rarified company, but I’m sure you get the gist.

Of course it’s deeply flawed, and I hope I’ve laid such things out as free from invective and prejudice for you to form your own opinion on it. Even as a Transporter apologist you’ll note the most frequently used adjectives here are ludicrous, silly, ridiculous, and terrible. If you feel like writing this film off with the insult of your choice, feel free. You won’t be blamed. Me? I’d rather have one hundred Transporter films than another piece of po-faced tedium such as S.W.A.T., but even I can’t sit here with a straight face and claim that Transporter 2 is even a passing acquaintance with ‘good’.

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