More noise than signal

Transporter 3

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

To the eternal disgust of everyone else involved in this site, I’m quite fond of the original Transporter film. Taking the rough formula of damn near every eighties action film, it dispensed with any pretence at plot and set about turning all of the knobs up to eleven. As long as you’re expecting silliness to the point of self parody, then it sets about delivering what it says on the tin. Even as something of an apologist for it, I can’t say I had any real need for a return of Jason Statham’s hard charging Frank Martin in Transporter 2, which attempted to further turn the knobs up another eleven notches and breaking them off in the process.

Which brings us to perhaps the least necessary film that has ever been greenlit, Transporter 3. By this point, even I’d be giving it a bodyswerve were it not for the poster’s promise of this being a film by Oliver Megaton. With such an astonishingly named director at the helm, surely this film could not fail? I suppose at least it can’t fail to provide lazy puns based on that name, in as much as if it’s good it’s explosive, and if it’s bad then it’s simply a bomb. A rare win-win for terribly nonfunny reviewers, as I like to think of myself.

The plot of this third instalment, and there’s your first mistake right there as there is simply no call for plot in a Transporter film, is based on a needlessly convoluted kidnap plot that sees EvilGlobalMegaCorporation attempt to force an environmentally crusading Baltic state into accepting shipments of dangerous toxic waste by means of kidnapping and threatening a government minister’s daughter, Valentina (Natalya Rudakova). After some preamble, Frank is blindsided, abducted and forced into babysitting slash delivering this daughter across Europe, his reluctant co-operation ensured by an exploding bracelet slapped on him, keyed to go off if he strays too far from his car.

Of course, a fine morally upstanding criminal such as Martin will have no truck with that sort of thing, and sets about trying to come up with a way to free himself and the girl and get vengeance and all of that malarky. While that’s needlessly convoluted for a franchise that’s entirely founded on braindead action, it at least sets up a conflict that can be resolved by silly driving, silly Kung cu and silly shootouts, so it ought to be salvageable. Surely?

Unfortunately, some scriptwriter somewhere seems to have been operating under the delusion that this film ought to resemble a real film, with characters having motivations and development and such concepts that the franchise should have no truck with. While that’s perhaps not something that any site that bemoans the lack of such qualities in, say, a thriller or courtroom drama, this is something of a special case. This film is the third in a line of Big Dumb Action movies, with the emphasis on the Dumb, part of the proud, vapid Big Dumb Action genre or which I am a staunch admirer and supporter.

What I don’t want to see in my Big Dumb Action movie, given the choice, is an excruciatingly boring and poorly acted love story slapped in the middle of it during which the film grinds to an absolute halt, and sadly that’s exactly what this delivers. The worst thing about this isn’t even the mortal wound it inflicts on the pacing and momentum of the film, it’s that the love interest here, Valentina, is so mind bogglingly irritating that I was actively wishing for horrible things to happen to her stupid freckly face and atrocious faux pigeon English dialogue, which is pretty much the diametric opposite of the sort of reactions a damsel in distress type is supposed to be provoking. So that’s a bust, then.

The bad guys scheming in this film, naturally, would completely fall apart if thought about for more than ten seconds, and if we start listing plot holes we’ll be here till Christmas. This, I would contend, is a common genre weakness and not so significant a problem that it couldn’t be overlooked, assuming a charismatic enemy to square off against and suitably boffo action scenes.

Sadly we have neither, Robert Knepper’s Mr. Johnston proving to be neither enigmatic nor coldly calculating, which I think was the intention, instead looking somewhere between bored and wooden. This leadership in outlook trickles down to his equally detached henchmen. The action scenes, to be fair, are actually somewhere between half decent and good for the most part. Corey Yuen returns on fight choreography duty and maps out some typically inventive and, yes, silly Kung fu sequences that are fun to watch, and the chase scenes are well enough handled to be far from disgraceful. If only there were about three times as many of them, we might have been in business.

But there isn’t. Instead there’s a big stinking romance subplot shaped hole in the good ship Transporter which, if it doesn’t drag the franchise to the sea bed then it will take it down to at last the depths of the ‘DVD premier’. It’s passage is unlikely to be mourned. Almost as a side note, I haven’t harped on about Natalya Rudakova’s role and character too much because it’s really a structural flaw, and even had the ghost of Audrey Hepburn been in the role it would still break the film, but she really is the most detestable, annoying and hateful presence in an action film since, well, perhaps ever, but at least since Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds.