As part of a series that started out giving the action genre a good kick in the pants, it's disappointing to see Transporter 3 fall victim to many of its trappings. Here we have a style that's partway between Bond and Bourne, blending the far-fetched action sequences of the former with the hardened edge of the latter. It's a combination that fueled two delightfully loopy but perfectly entertaining films, though the burgeoning franchise seems to have run out of gas the third time around. That's not to say that Transporter 3 is a worthless flick, but it's definitely not the shot to the cerebellum you'd hope it would be.
Jason Statham reprises his signature role as Frank Martin, a tough guy for hire who delivers cargo for morally ambiguous types with no questions asked. But a job he passed on to a colleague is about to bite back in a big way, as Frank's pal literally crashes his pad in the middle of the night. The next day, Frank awakens to find himself roped into his latest assignment, accompanying a Ukrainian beauty (Natalya Rudakova) on a road trip across Europe. But there's a deadly catch involved, as professional sleazebag Johnson (Robert Knepper) has saddled our hero with a wristwatch designed to explode should he pass 75 feet from his beloved car. Needless to say, Frank can't say no, though the gig comes with its fair share of complications. Not only are Johnson's agents hell-bent on ensuring the job gets done, Frank starts to fall in love with his "package," giving him something to fight for other than payday.
Having seen Transporter 3, I can see why so many James Bond fans were disappointed by the latest entry, Quantum of Solace. After getting two films that shot for the moon with their action sequences and stunt choreography, it's a letdown to see a sequel that's so routine. Not that there's anything wrong with that, since it's still an entertaining film. But compared with its predecessors, Transporter 3 feels suspiciously like it's on autopilot, thrown together in a mad dash after Transporter 2 proved to be a sleeper hit. It has all the basic ingredients fans have come to expect from the series, from Frank's policeman chum (Francois Berleand) to his trademarked black-and-white suit. Incoming director Olivier Megaton (best last name ever) checks off all the items on the Transporter shopping list, but he fails to bring anything refreshing of his own to the table. The movie is left with a generic aftertaste, filling the screen with enough flash and visual pizazz to keep viewers occupied, only to leave them all the more hollow for the experience.
Still, Transporter 3 retains enough of a cool edge to get by relatively unscathed. Though Frank doesn't get to do much beyond battle the same group of thugs for the umpteenth time, there are moments when Megaton gets gleefully silly with the action. One rousing scene has Frank racing to get back to his car before his watch detonates, and the climactic sequence sees him driving his trusty auto onto a moving train. It pales in comparison to the oil slick brawls and fire hose fights we're used to, but they give viewers a nice, quick adrenaline fix. In any case, Statham's performance keeps the atmosphere nice and cool, doing as effortless a job of kicking butt and taking names as the man's fans have come to expect. I can't say the same for Rudakova, whose flat and mildly annoying turn ends up detracting from her eye candy status. As for Knepper, his passable role as the villain is pretty simple: sneer at the camera, make a little speech or two, and get a painful comeuppance before the final credits roll.
Transporter 3 is easily the weakest of its trilogy. Heck, it's not even the best Jason Statham movie of the year (an honor currently held by The Bank Job). But if slogging through Four Christmases or enduring Australia aren't on your plate this Thanksgiving season, then Transporter 3 is ready and willing to show you just the brainless good time you're looking for.