Ah, the mighty Statham. Regular readers will need no reminding of our affection for The Statham, and given that we’ve been looking at some action-packed movie car chases over the past week (to mark the upcoming release of EA’s Need For Speed Rivals game from November 22nd), it seems only right and proper that he gets his moment in the limelight. In particular, we’re looking at the vehicular action of The Transporter 3 here. It’s not The Statham’s finest film, but it has some cracking driving in it…
First appearing in 2002, the Transporter series of films introduced driver-for-hire Frank Martin. As played by Jason Statham, Frank’s a terse man of action who’s as capable with his fists and feet as he is behind the wheel, and the franchise is distinguished by its martial arts scenes and high-octane driving sequences.
Directed by Olivier Megaton and released in 2008, Transporter 3 sees Frank become a prisoner of his now familiar black Audi A8 W12. A villain named Johnson (Robert Knepper) has secured an explosive bracelet around Frank’s wrist, which will detonate if he strays more than 75 feet from his car – an explosion which, if it doesn’t kill him, will at least hamper his chances of becoming a concert pianist.
With this incentive in place, Frank’s ordered to transport politician’s daughter Valentina (Natalya Rudakova) to a location in Eastern Europe. As critics noted at the time of release, Transporter 3 doesn’t offer much in terms of character or plot – if we’re being honest, Frank’s burgeoning ‘romance’ with Valentina’s ineptly handled – but it still offers plenty of solid, over-the-top action scenes. Which brings us to the subject of this article: the chase between Frank’s Audi R8 and a Mercedes E-Class full of bad guys.
On their way to Bucharest, Frank’s made a brief stop for petrol (allowing Valentina to purchase and imbibe a bottle of vodka) when a group of hitmen show up in their evil-looking black Merc. A chase ensues along a winding country road, with a drunken Valentina adding further to poor old Frank’s stress levels.
The very definition of cool, Frank skilfully keeps his armoured Audi ploughing on, even as the bad guys in the Merc repeatedly try to force him off the road. Weaving left and right to keep the Merc safely behind him, Frank also manages to avoid the worst of the oncoming traffic, and when a pair of gigantic trucks appear on the horizon, he formulates a cunning plan to get round them, too.
Crossing the line
As is often the case in movie car chases, it’s the villains who blithely cause all the accidents. Note how the Merc simply batters a Citroen out of the way, while Frank heroically swerves to avoid it. (It’s also worth noting that, no doubt due to a limited budget, all the other cars on the road are all old and French.)
It’s when those trucks appear that Frank really proves his superior driving skills. Manipulating his Audi until it’s up on two wheels, he squeezes the Teutonic monster through the miniscule gab between the trucks, remaining at a precise 45-degrees for the entire manoeuvre.
Commendably, this entire sequence was performed practically, from the Audi up on two wheels to the frankly scary moment where the Merc’s almost taken out by a jack-knifing lorry. The stunt team responsible for executing the sequence was headed up by Michel Julienne – son of driving legend Remy Julienne. Thanks to Michel’s remarkable skill and planning, a potentially dangerous stunt came off without a hitch, as proven by Transporter 3′s behind-the-scenes extras, where we see a mixture of driving expertise, clever camera positioning and editing come together to create an impressive movie moment.
Having narrowly avoided being wiped out by an out-of-control articulated lorry, the bad guys straighten their Merc out and continue the pursuit, which has now switched to a dirt road cutting through a forest. As the hit men (literally) break out the big guns, Frank does something relatively rare in chase sequences: he stops.
Rightly concluding that it’s sometimes better to be behind rather than in front, Frank’s sudden halt severely injures a gunman (there’s another potential career in concert piano playing ruined), and leaves the Merc hurtling off ahead. Using his Audi’s superior W12 horsepower, Frank speeds back up again, smashing into the villains’ car and sending it plummeting into a quarry.
Frank, well versed in ending a car chase in style, brings his Audi sliding to a halt mere inches from the brink. How did he know he was heading for a huge precipice? Did it come up as an alert on his sat-nav? Is he psychic? No matter. The scene’s a great one, and while Transporter 3 itself is hardly a classic, the driving and stunts in this set-piece are, like Statham himself, aggressive and effortlessly cool.
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