I was 14 when The Transporter series kicked off, which is the absolute perfect age to be enraptured by its fun-spirited but immensely dumb action shenanigans. Unlike Jason Statham’s follow-up series, Crank, this one resists the urge to go full postmodern bananas, so there’s some semblance of narrative earnestness — just enough to make every plot point deliciously cheesy and horrible.
Statham plays the titular Transporter, a prestigious for-hire driver who has a list of “rules” for never getting involved in his clients’ dealings outside of his specific contract. But, inevitably, he gets sucked in and has to save the day.
The 2002 original is the most sensible of the trilogy, so it is naturally the worst of the bunch. It cares far too much about plot and character. Huge sections of the middle act go by with nary a single flying bullet or fist striking a face. The deeper the movie digs into its human trafficking conspiracy plot, the more dull it becomes.
Beyond Statham, nobody in the cast leaves any impression. Shu Qi has a paper-thin role as the co-star/love interest. I gather from some of her other credits that she’s a legitimate actor, but she’s phoning this movie in — not that I blame her. François Berléand pops up every few scenes as a foil to Statham, and every act has a new disposable villain, but you’ll forget them all the instant the movie finishes.
The third act has a couple of excellent action scenes, including a nifty parachute set piece. There’s one fight scene that foreshadows the rowdier sense of fun the series would adopt in later outings: Statham douses himself in motor oil so he can slide around the room kicking ass.
But ultimately, The Transporter tries a little too hard to get you to care about anything other than wacky fisticuffs.
Not Very Good (3/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.