If you asked me back in 2002 about the possibility of a big-screen sequel to The Transporter, I would've said no way. I loved the Luc Besson-penned actioner, starring Jason Statham as an ex-Special Forces soldier who becomes a high-paid and danger-fraught deliveryman, but after the mixed critical reception and modest box office tally, I was positive any follow-ups would debut on the shelves of Blockbuster.
I guess The Transporter's DVD sales must've gone through the roof, because at the nearby multiplex the other day, I did something I thought I'd never do: buy an honest-to-goodness movie ticket for The Transporter 2. This is something of a minor miracle for me, because in recent years, the direct-to-DVD action genre has become the haunting grounds of Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme. I don't mind saying I was happy to purchase that ticket, for The Transporter 2 is too much fun to be shuffled in with the likes of those duds -- even if it's not groundbreaking cinema.
Frank Martin (Statham) is the precise and impeccably-dressed courier from the first Transporter. This time around, though, instead of dodging bullets in France, Frank is the chauffer for a wealthy Miami couple (Matthew Modine and Amber Valetta). Our man is enjoying the quiet life, and he's becoming fast friends with the couple's son (Hunter Clary). But that bond is about to be put to the test when a greasy villain (Alessandro Gassman), his assassin girlfriend (Kate Nauta), and an endless sea of henchmen kidnap the kid and hold him for ransom. Since the authorities think he was in on the kidnapping, Frank has no choice but to put his skills to good use and find the boy by shooting, kicking, and punching his way through one bad guy after another, until he uncovers that a much more dangerous plan than a simple kidnapping is at work.
If you thought some of the action sequences and stuntwork in The Transporter were over the top, then The Transporter 2 turns the level of ridiculousness up to 11. About every five minutes, a guy sitting behind me laughed himself silly at how improbable and farfetched these bits were, and I can't imagine someone paying a better compliment. The makers of The Transporter 2 know that audiences have been subjected to every dopey car chase and gunfight in the book, so what better way to show people a good time than to break all the laws of physics and probability with their own action scenes?
There's no way Frank Martin could drive a car off a skyscraper and have it land perfectly on a floor of the building across the street, or launch his car into the air and have a crane grab the bomb from the undercarriage, or jump in the air just in time to avoid being hit by two cars that collide into one another. But that's the magic of The Transporter 2: everyone here knows that absolutely nothing in the movie is remotely possible, but they also know that all of it is great fun to watch. This is one of the goofiest action movies ever made and one of the most entertaining in recent years as well.
Sure, not everything about The Transporter 2 is perfect. The villain is your average Evil Foreign Guy; the grand evil scheme revealed in the third act opens up too many questions if you think about it for more than two seconds; and almost the entire cast, including Matthew Modine (now where's this guy been all these years?) as the kidnapped kid's whiny dad and Keith David as a fed in charge of finding the kidnappers, are stuck with throwaway roles.
One of the drawbacks of action movies is the fact that a solid supporting cast receives little attention in lieu of featuring the lead busting a few more heads. But at least The Transporter 2 gives us a guy who knows how to be a good action hero without looking like he's sleepwalking through the part.
Statham is every bit as tough and engaging as he was in the previous film, making the audience believe in a highly unbelievable situation. If you ever need a guy to singlehandedly take on a group of thugs wielding swords and axes, or clear a room of henchmen with a fire hose alone, Frank Martin's your man. And I can't forget to mention Kate Nauta, who plays a character with a lifestyle seemingly inspired by the hookers of Sin City as she combines gymastic skill and heavy firepower while wearing as little clothing as a "PG-13" rating will allow.
MY RATING: *** (out of ****)
(Released by 20th Century Fox and rated "PG-13" for intense sequences of violent action, sexual content, partial nudity and brief language.)