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'Transporter': All action, no brain1

Friday, October 11, 2002

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Film Critic

"The Transporter" is tough-as-nails Frank (Jason Statham), living for some time now in the Riviera. One of these days, he's gonna need new tires on that thing.


RATING: R for violence and brief nudity

STARRING: Jason Statham, Shu Qi, Francois Berleand, Matt Schulze


Critic's call:


No, that's an old Soupy Sales joke. Frank's car is actually a souped-up BMW, and he's a souped-down ex-Special Forces agent, semi-retired in the French Mediterranean region, currently hiring out as a mercenary mover of ill-gotten goods from place to place. He operates under a few simple rules: No questions asked. No names. Never change the deal. Never look in the package.

But what if the package squirms and MOVES? And if the thing squirming and moving in it is the beautiful Asian girl Shu Qi?

Then, he has to ask some questions -- in between death-dodging complex Euro-skulduggery, immigrant smuggling, big-bucks robberies and -- most of all, best of all, de rigueur of all getaway car chases and crashes.

The opening one is pretty exciting, I'm here to tell ya. It rivals "The Getaway" in length and sets up Statham as a McQueen-like King of Cool (with 007 trimmings) under fire.

It's the second job that gets him and the film in trouble. First of all, he makes the mistake of peaking inside the package -- and a second mistake of allow the package to pee (and thence escape) en route to its destination. The result, notwithstanding her successful recapture and delivery, is that Frank and his love villa become the target for destruction by an evil syndicate -- and the romantic advances of his more than peaked-at package.

That should suffice by way of plot. "The Transporter" is not about plot. Under the direction of Cory Yen, it is about action, inspired by the films of director (here, writer) Luc Bresson ("La Femme Nikita," "The Professional"). You don't want to look too closely at narrative details or character development, lest ye be sorely disappointed.

Even then, you'll be sorely disappointed if you place any special value on logic. You must, rather, place special value on DESTRUCTION and on the cardboard villains it calls for.

Stolid Statham seems every bit the Euro-Bruce Willis, never losing his temper or sang-froid under any occasion -- including the complete Scud-Patriot incineration of his mansion. He was effective, you'll recall, in Guy Ritchie's "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and even more so in "Snatch." Here, unfortunately, he and his script are considerably less so.

There's one good grease fight between him and the bad guys, who -- no matter what the odds, 20 or 30-to-1 -- can never seem to nail him. But most of the spectacular cartoon violence is on a credibility par with the Simpsons' "Itchy & Scratchy."

But don't worry: He gets the Asian chick and a new BMW in the end.

Barry Paris can be reached at 412-263-3859.


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