Transporter 3 peaks at abject. In scaling this giddy height it plums so many depths that it would take me a month, a scroll of human flesh and a pint of my own blood just to list them. Instead let me quickly sketch out the principal travesties, before shifting my energy to the one real crime against celluloid.
Let’s begin with the story. Frank Martin, played by Jason Stratham, wakes up to find himself with a bracelet bomb strapped to his wrist that will explode if he wanders too far from his car. He’s then packed a picnic lunch by the bad guys and sent off to escort a package to Bucharest. So far, so Transporter. Unfortunately, this delicious slice of ludicrousness is delivered by a script so terrifyingly bad that I’m afraid to quote any of the lines for fear of being sued for emotional damage. It’s a script so appalling that only the very worst actors could do it justice, and aside from a few rebels, by God they succeed. Dialogue is chewed over and spat onto the screen at a rate of knots, and by the time the film ends you really will wonder if every conversation starts with an exclamation.
However, judging an action film on its dialogue is like judging Hamlet for its flamethrower scene, so let’s address the fights. Or, to be correct, the fight. There’s three big fights peppered throughout the movie, but if you look carefully you’ll notice they’re actually the same one in three different locations. In each, our hero is surrounded by a posse of bad guys, requiring him to strip down to his naked torso in order to towel slap the bitch out of them with his own clothes. In a stroke of genius the director has decided the best way to hide this fact is to edit the fights down into an incomprehensible mess of flashing lights and sound effects, which only succeed in making you feel as if you’re having a prolonged fit each time one starts.
I can only put this down to the movie receiving the same budget from the studio as an English inventor would get peddling a new type of gnome to the bank. Evidence of this cost cutting is in effect throughout, from the Audi that can’t be scratched, shot, dented or buffed even after driving into a train, right through to the girl. Oh God, the girl. The love interest. If life was fair she’d be charged with crimes against humanity. This is a girl so bad her character starts off sounding like Yoda, and ends as Borat. In bridging these diverse acting styles her character moves through a range of emotions that can best be summed up as sulky, moany, slutty and dowdy. Indeed, at one point it got so bad I would seriously have considered donating the flesh from my bones if somebody had offered to choke her with it. Yet, somehow we’re meant to buy into her as a love interest. She’s so irritating that when she and Frank finally made their moves, the audience actually groaned.
Yet, if you’ve skipped ahead you’ll have noticed I’ve awarded Transporter 3 a princely two stars. If you haven’t skipped to the end, do so now, we’ll wait. Two stars, for two reasons. The first is The Statham. That’s right, we’re using the definitive article because he now owns this genre body and soul. God only knows how he managed to interrupt the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Rock coronation – though we’d suggest a rocket launcher and a kick to the crotch on this evidence – but somehow Statham has usurped the eighties action-movie throne. Admittedly, he may have the acting range of a jam doughnut, but that’s irrelevant. He has the cool delivery and self-confident swagger of an actor comfortable in his skin, and is eminently watchable throughout.
The second is for Francois Berleand who plays Tarconi, the French cop from the first two films who’s Frank’s only friend. The two have a genuine chemistry that brings a couple of nice lines, and a dazzling exchange on why Russians are so dour which belongs in a much better film than this. In fact, it would have fitted into either of the first two quite comfortably, because while they were dumb, at least they were enjoyable. Transporter 3 isn’t.