The first film was an over the top adrenaline blast of action. The sequel takes that over the top quality and pushes it to ludicrous proportions, while giving us some interesting characters along the way. I never thought that I would ever see a sequel as The Transporter never really tore up the box office. Whatever the case may be, none of us are here to consider the box office comparisons of the two films.
Transporter 2 opens on what looks like a car commercial, but is actually the introduction of one of the co-stars, the Audi A8. From here we move onto the first action sequence as our Transporter fends off some inept would-be carjackers. This adequately introduces us to a pair that we will be spending a good deal of time with. This all fits in with the standard opening for these types of films, the opening scene introduces(or reintroduces) us the hero through a scene that is primarily not related to the rest of the film. It serves to set up where our hero stands in relation to everyone else, it draws the audience to identify with him, then we are more likely to root for him throughout the runtime.
Frank Martin returns as our hero who is unwittingly involved in an elaborate kidnapping plot, which is much more than it appears on the surface. The plot slowly reveals itself amidst the non stop action scenes. These action scenes throw out everything but the kitchen sink, and that’s only because one wasn’t available. Like the first we get a blend of car chases, shoot outs, and martial arts style fights. In between we get small pieces to put together this ingenius plot. A fast acting virus, a kidnapping and return, a rogue ex-military agent, a psychotic half dressed assassin, assorted minions, a political figure, and a cold hearted villain with good reason to be kept alive.
Now, I’m not going to say that this is a smart film, I don’t think I have enough ammunition to defend that sort of position. What I will say, however, is that the plot is intriguing, it is deceptive in it’s complexity and knows that it is not playing in the real world. It takes place in a hyper-real world where men can jump out of windows, land on a car, get up, jump to avoid a couple cars and dive in front of an eighteen wheeler. The result of all that was merely a ruined suit. The plot is full of a whole lot of conveniences just to further us along our path, but I still found the way it unfolded to be intriguing, and the reasoning behind our bad guy to be refreshingly different than the usual “madman taking over the world” villain of the month bad guy we usually get.
Jason Statham reprises his role as the titular Transporter, and does a fine job of it. He has great screen presence, exuding this calm demeanor with a touch of wry humor. Despite being so cool, he is still able to emote with just the slightest facial expression and possess an imposing physical presence. Also returning from the first film is François Berléand as Inspector Tarconi, who has struck up a sort of friendship with our law skirting anti-hero. While being at the center of some humorous scenes, he is only here to function as a device to move the plot along. Still glad to see him, though. On the flip side is Alessandro Gassman, as the evil genius Gianni. Not necessarily at the same level of some Bond villains, but clever nonetheless, successfully playing of the European villain cliché and a feeling of credibility within this hyper-realism. At his right hand is Lola, portrayed with manic glee by newcomer Katie Nauta. Clad in as little clothing and as much mascara as possible, she stalks our hero armed with a pair of laser scoped automatic weapons and a dirty sexuality. A little further down the chain is Jason Flemyng, he may not have a big role, but makes a habit of stealing the scenes he is in. In the middle are the troubled couple of Matthew Modine and Amber Valletta as the targeted parents of kidnap victim Hunter Clary. All three filling their plot roles nicely.
The film was directed by Louis Leterrier, who was also behind the lens for Unleashed with Jet Li and was the artistic director of the original, with martial arts choreography by Corey Yuen, who directed the original. Also returning from that original team is uber-producer and writer Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. This creative team has brought forth a sequel worthy of the original, an action orgy that should satisfy those craving some pure unadulterated action. It is clear that Luc Besson is having a big influence the action genre, the films he produces (Transporter 1&2, Unleashed, Kiss of the Dragon, Wasabi)have a similar handprint on them. I like that he is giviing us these straight up action films that, while over the top, generally provide some interesting characters amidst the carnage. I, for one, would not mind seeing this team again for a Transporter 3, I think there are many more stories that could be told.
It struck me, while leaving the theater, that this film and it’s predecessor are very reminiscent of those 80′s action flicks that starred the likes of Steven Seagal and Jean Claude Van Dam. I think that I will like these better in the long run. I’m not trying to say they are at the same level, but they both share the same desired end result, pump up the adrenaline, ramp up the action, and take the audience on a highly entertaining ride.
Bottomline. This was a blast, pure and simple. It had me laughing at the ridiculousness of the situations, it had me in awe of the perfectly executed action sequences, and took me out of the real world drudgery and threw me headlong into a world of hyper-real action and suspense. Not the best of the genre, but it is sure to hold your attention in it’s wall to wall explosiveness.