Imagine you are a seventeen year-old boy. One burden-free summer day, you and your buddies get hopped up on Dr Pepper. The sun is shining. It’s the golden era of your youth. You’ll never be more receptive to art and life, and so you buy a matinee ticket at the local cinema. You decide to see Transporter 2, sequel to a dumb Jason Statham action flick.
Reader, that boy was me, seventeen years ago, and that outing ended up being my favorite movie-going experience of my entire life. I laughed until I couldn’t breathe. I cheered. I adored every frame of this movie. All this time later, I still do.
Transporter 2 wastes no time shedding the over-serious skin of its precursor, immediately mocking the original’s obsession with Jason Statham’s — the transporter’s — list of rules. From the start, we’re barraged with increasingly goofy quips. (“I’m afraid that this flight’s been canceled.” – “I’m afraid that you have been canceled.”) The team realized the cheese was the point, and poured on the Velveeta.
This time we also get a villain with legitimate screen presence and malice in Gianni (Alessandro Gassmann). But its his slinky, S&M-themed right-hand-woman played by Kate Nauta who leaves a real impression. She was rightly featured in most of the movie’s marketing. (It’s a shame her death is so abrupt and haphazard.)
Everything about Transporter 2 embraces a sense of fun, losing some of the action seriousness of the original but embracing a free-wheeling giddiness. This is exemplified by the change in setting from Paris to South Beach. The action sequences lean in on wacky, heightened concepts rather than nitty-gritty melee and gunplay.
The movie traffics in on over-the-top, prop-themed action segments, with no use for silly things like “plot.” There’s a great bit involving watermelons as boxing gloves and a mini-masterpiece of a comic fight scene built around a firehose. A couple of the car stunts are so brazenly ridiculous that I gasped in delight at the audacity. Statham plays chisel-jawed Superman to deadpan perfection.
There are far too many perfunctory and half-assed bits for this to ever verge anywhere near masterpiece territory (though my heart pleads the opposite). A plot thread about an antidote to a plague basically vanishes, and it’s so knowingly stupid as a film it’s impossible to take seriously. It’s just cinematic cotton candy.
But Transporter 2 is, to me, an outstanding specimen of cinema, perfect for a junior in high school. I refuse to use the term “guilty pleasure” because seventeen-year-old me felt no guilt in enjoying this. Nor do I today.
- Review Project: 2009 Top 100