The Transporter (2002) & Transporter 2 (2005)


Jason Statham - Frank Martin
Francois Berleand - Inspector Tarconi
Matt Schulze - Darren "Wall Street" Bettencourt (THE TRANSPORTER)
Ric Young - Mr. Kwai (THE TRANSPORTER)
Hunter Clary - Jack Billings (TRANSPORTER 2)
Alessandro Gassman - Gianni (TRANSPORTER 2)
Amber Valletta - Audrey Billings (TRANSPORTER 2)
Kate Nauta - Lola (TRANSPORTER 2)
Matthew Modine - Jefferson Billings (TRANSPORTER 2)
Jason Flemyng - Dimitri (TRANSPORTER 2)
Keith David - Stappleton (TRANSPORTER 2)

Genre - Action

Running Time - 93 Minutes (THE TRANSPORTER)/87 Minutes (TRANSPORTER 2)

Score -
3.5 Howls Outta 4 (THE TRANSPORTER)
3 Howls Outta 4 (TRANSPORTER 2)

I think I've made it known a couple of times in certain reviews about my hetero man-crush on Jason Statham. Ever since I saw him in Guy Ritchie's LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS and [especially] SNATCH, Statham had been on my radar due to his charisma, presence, and acting ability. I think I've pretty much seen every film this has been in, give or take a couple that I'm still getting to. This guy has star written all over him, but that wasn't really realized until his first leading role, 2002's THE TRANSPORTER. I remember seeing the trailer to this film and watching all the fight sequences and thinking that Statham was the toughest badass I've seen in a film in years. Unfortunately, I was one of the few who actually saw THE TRANSPORTER in a movie theater as the film made only $10 million in the United States. Thankfully, the power of DVD made the film a big hit and worthy enough for another installment - 2005's TRANSPORTER 2, which was more over-the-top and more action-packed than the original was. This time, I wasn't one of the few who saw this in a theater as the sequel made a pretty good chunk of cash during its release, making more on DVD than the first one did.

Now in 2008, we have TRANSPORTER 3 coming out today which I probably won't see until this weekend. I'm actually looking forward to it, even though I know the third installments are usually not all that great. But I'm willing to give it a chance because I'm a big fan of the first two installments, which prove that action is alive and well in the 21st Century. So before I review TRANSPORTER 3, I figure it's only right to review the first two and see if they still hit the mark today as they did a few years ago. After all, I have rules and you always follow the rules.

In THE TRANSPORTER, Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is known in the European underground as The Transporter - meaning he will transport anything for a fee to anywhere that he's directed to without asking any questions. A former military dude and a guy who is proficient in martial arts and firearms, Frank is pretty anal about his job and follows certain rules for each one:

- Never change the deal.
- No names.
- Never look in the package.

Frank is very on point about his transporting business, always knowing shortcuts or planning ahead for certain occasions [like police trouble] that may hinder his job ability. Driving his BMW 735, Frank can pretty much outdrive anyone without injury or scratching his car.

During one transporting job, Frank gets a flat tire. Going to his trunk for a spare, he sees the package he's transporting - moving and screaming. Letting his curiosity get the best of him, Frank decides to look in the package to find some Asian chick named Lai (Qi Shu), who is part of some slave-smuggling cartel deal. Violating his third rule destroys the private and quiet life he once had before taking this certain mission, making him realize that one should always follow the rules.

In TRANSPORTER 2, Frank relocates to Miami from France, now playing driver to a kid named Jack (Hunter Clary). Jack happens to be the son of some big government official (Matthew Modine), who trying to stop the world of narcotics in the area. Being a dumbass, he doesn't realize this just put a target on him and his entire family.

One day, Frank takes Jack to a doctor's appointment. Unfortunately, some bad guys kill the staff at the clinic, posing as nurses and doctors to attack Jack. Frank realizes this quick and manages to save Jack, until the mastermind behind this latest attack (Alessandro Gassman) and his anorexic girlfriend (Kate Nauta) force Frank against a wall that allows Jack to get kidnapped, as well as taking the blame for the crime. They try to kill Frank, but he manages to survive. More pissed off and determined as ever, Frank has to save Jack as well as the entire world, as this madman is planning to spread a bio-chemical weapon that will murder anyone who breathes it.

films are what I consider guilty pleasures. They're basically plot-less most of the time, requiring the action to shut your brain down so you can just enjoy being stimulated by the visuals on screen. The stunts are really over the top, almost to the point where they become borderline ridiculous. It's cliche, after cliche, after cliche - yet both films make all this work. Why? Because they never take themselves seriously as if the filmmakers know they're making a ridiculous action flick or two. And I'm more than fine with that because action films should be exciting and have to be sort of illogical in order to work.

Like I mentioned above, these films are basically plot-less. That's not to say that THE TRANSPORTER and/or TRANSPORTER 2 don't have stories. Both films do have a Point A, a Point B, and a Point C that moves these films along. Obviously, both films focus on Frank Martin - British Bad Ass who makes sure his actions are louder than his words. The funny thing about Frank is that we barely know anything about his background. We know he was in Special Ops, but we still haven't learned about how he even because a Transporter or why he continues to do so when it gets him into all sorts of trouble that complicated his quite life. Yet while we have no inkling of his past, we're still allowed to know what kind of character he is. He's a neat freak. He doesn't talk much unless he has a point to say something. He cherishes his cars like his life. He has rules he tries to follow. And he's an ass-kicking machine. Frank can be a very cold character and almost seems anti-social, but he's greatly appealing and charming at the same time. I think it's because the character is always up front about who he is and why he does what he does. There's no shadyness with Frank and that's why we root for him.

But the character development pretty much ends there with these films. Unless you count Inspector Tarconi, who is a pretty loose police officer who's willing to help Frank do anything without judging him, none of the other characters are really fleshed out. We barely know anything about the people Frank associates with, as they're just necessities for the films' plots.

Still, it doesn't matter because these films aren't about Academy Award winning screenplays, memorable dialogue, or great characterization. These films are about the action on screen. And that's where THE TRANSPORTER and TRANSPORTER 2 succeeds. The first one is pretty much more grounded in reality. We get great high speed chases, with lots of cars crashing into each other and such. We get insane fight choregraphy. We have explosions that involve cars and houses. I swear the first time I saw this film, I saw things I had never seen before - especially the combat scenes. THE TRANSPORTER has better pacing than TRANSPORTER 2 does because there isn't action all the time, as we have some expository scenes that bridge these sequences.

TRANSPORTER 2 is pretty much all action, all the time. And that action is extremely out there, as it almost feels like watching a cartoon most of the time. It's not a bad thing at all, as I still find the action in the sequel to be satisfying as an action-junkie. But unlike THE TRANSPORTER, TRANSPORTER 2 makes you throw all logic out the window as your suspension of disbelief is stretched pretty tightly. I mean, how does a man fall from many feet above onto a moving car, make a massive dent on the top of the car, roll off the car, and get up as if nothing had happened. There's another part where two cars crash into each other as Frank does a split in mid-air to avoid the collision. Should I even mention the insane spinning airplane sequence towards the end of the film where Frank and Gianni have fisticuffs in mid-air as the plane crashes down into the ocean? And what about all those ramps that appear just in time for Frank to leap away from danger? The stunts and action in TRANSPORTER 2 are insane and pretty much unbelievable. Yet, I don't take these films all that seriously anyway so it doesn't bother me that Frank can pretty much survive everything death throws at him. I do hate some of the CGI used in the sequel [you can't miss it really]. It looks faker than it should and it almost takes you out of the film. But other than that, the action sequences are the highlights of these movies.

The fighting choregraphy [by Corey Yuen] is also fantastic in both of these films. Jason Statham pretty much does most of the stunts in these films and he's a tremendous athlete. I'm not sure if he took martial arts training before THE TRANSPORTER, but Statham moves like a cat and is extremely believable when he's throwing punches and kicks, using his T-shirt to wrap it around the necks of goons, and covering himself with oil and busting heads that way. And the use of weapons as well is extremely impressive. Statham is not a dude I would fuck with in real life. The choregraphy is incredible and I see things in these films that I've never seen before in any action movie I had seen prior. I think the closest I've seen to these are in Jackie Chan films where the choregraphy is stunning to watch. There's definitely a Hong Kong influence when it comes to the fighting style and I've always been fascinated by these kung-fu style movies. Learning these steps is probably really tough. Making them look convincing is probably even tougher. But THE TRANSPORTER films make it possible. Sure, it's silly to see one man take out 10 guys with weapons all by himself in the matter of three to five minutes when you think about it, but it feels extremely right when you're watching Statham do it in THE TRANSPORTER and TRANSPORTER 2. Kudos to the people behind the scenes bringing the action and making it good.

The direction for these films are also very good. Corey Yuen and Louis Leterrier co-directed THE TRANSPORTER, with Yuen filming the action portions and Leterrier filming the most story driven stuff. To be quite honest, I didn't even realize two men directed this film until recently. Nothing about the film gives it away. It flows extremely well from beginning to end. THE TRANSPORTER feels like a Hong Kong action flick, as it has that mood going for it. It feels fresh and the cinematography is beautiful [kudos to Pierre Morel for that]. I do think the editing by Nicolas Trembasiewicz is a bit too much at times, especially during the action sequences, but it doesn't bother me a lot. But less jump-cuts would have made the sequences a bit more watchable.

Louis Leterrier solo directs TRANSPORTER 2 and does it really well again. Unlike the first one, Leterrier kisses reality goodbye and just lets shit rip, filming the most insane action sequences that assault the eyes and shut down the brain. TRANSPORTER 2 is pretty much Leterrier doing style over substance, but at least the style is pretty awesome. Also, the editing is a lot better here. You get a better feel of the action in the sequel as there's no major jump cuts that distract you. And again, the cinematography is beautiful. The film is a lot brighter and sunnier than in the original, as the film takes place in Miami. I really dig the direction in both films. Yuen and Leterrier provide action aficionados what they want and that's enough for me.

The acting is not these films strong suits, but I do feel the acting in THE TRANSPORTER is a bit better than in TRANSPORTER 2. Jason Statham is awesome in both installments, convincingly playing Frank Martin as a bad motherfucker who will kick your ass in so many ways that it'll make your head spin - probably literally. Statham is charismatic. Statham has a presence that makes you notice him. He's good when he speaks dialogue, but he's even better when he just uses facial expressions and body language to convey what the character is feeling. Plus, Statham is fantastic at fight choregraphy. The dude is a machine in these films. He is the franchise and he carries it extremely well.

Francois Bereland is also very good as Inspector Tarconi. His character acting and humorous take on Frank's world is a nice contrast to Frank's more serious and colder character. The two have great chemistry whenever they appear together on screen. I do think he's kind of wasted in TRANSPORTER 2 but hopefully he has a bigger role in TRANSPORTER 3 where he shares scenes with Statham. The two make a good duo.

The other actors are a mixed bag. Shu Qi is very beautiful and has a nice presence about her as Lai. I think her handling of dialogue is a bit weird, but that's probably because speaking in English on film is probably foreign for her. Sometimes she would sound natural; at others, it sounded almost like she was reading from a cue card. But I liked her and she made an interesting love interest, even if it wasn't all that believable.

Amber Valletta has more chemistry with Statham than Shu Qi, but doesn't get to do all that much really but cry and vent. She's a good actress but the role wasn't much for her. Matthew Modine was a bit of an overactor though. I don't know if he was having faux-Vietnam flashbacks from FULL METAL JACKET, but he was trying a bit too hard to be angry here. Plus his character wasn't developed enough for me to care. He's a better actor than this. Hunter Clary was cute as Jack though. Most child actors annoy the hell out of me, but Clary didn't. I actually liked the dynamic between him and Statham. The two shared nice chemistry that could probably melt alot of hearts.

The bad guys are also a mixed bag. I find the villains in THE TRANSPORTER to be better than the ones in TRANSPORTER 2. Matt Schulze was swarmy, sarcastic, and a real jerk as Darren Bettencourt. He was an asshole in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and he continued that persona here. And Ric Young as Mr. Kwai was a bigger dickhead, treating his daughter Lai as a business proposition rather than a family member. I bought these two in their roles, as cliched as they were, because at least they had personalities. Alessandro Gassman and Kate Nauta were pretty one-note in TRANSPORTER 2. Gassman just looked pretty I suppose with his accent. I guess he figured his toned body would do the acting for him. Didn't work, bro. At least Nauta was a little more fun to watch as the crazed Lola. I liked her scenes with Statham and they shared an interesting chemistry as well. Maybe if she was the main villain, the film probably would have been equal to the original. But she was Gassman's lackey and Gassman was pretty much a pussy. Kind of lame, but I guess that's to be expected from these action flicks.


- If you want to rob a bank, do it in France. Not only are the police not great at their job at all, but they'll probably surrender before the chase even begins. Sucre bleu!

- Frank has a photographic memory. Unfortunately, that means he can't forget GHOST OF MARS or IN THE NAME OF THE KING: A DUNGEON SIEGE TALE. No wonder he's so sullen.

- If you're transporting a female prisoner, never let her out if she wants to pee. She's lying and is trying to escape. Remember - women always go to the bathroom in groups, never alone.

- Don't bomb a British man's car. He'll get so bloody pissed off that your fate will be as bad as marrying Madonna. Let's not get SWEPT AWAY, shall we?

- Don't leave a kidnapped Asian in your house while you go to bed. She'll snoop around, find info about you to get into your life, do your homework, and eat all of your pets. Yoko O-no!

- Saving the life of an Asian can be beneficial. Remember, if you do they'll love you long time.

- Lai's father paid hundreds of dollars to send her to school and teach her English. Couldn't she just have watched Sesame Street? What a rip off! And I thought Asians were smart!

- If you need to fight like 8 guys at once, cover yourself with oil. No one will be able to touch you. Like Frankie Valli once sang, "Grease is the word."

- Frank is not afraid of AnnaLynne McCord, even when she was holding a gun on him. He must have seen 90210. Laughable, I know!

- The bad guys had Frank by the balls in Miami. If this was Miami Vice, this shit wouldn't have happened. Well, maybe to Tubbs. But Crockett and his 5 o'clock would have totally kicked ass!

- Frank has the ability to jump over ramps, knock off bombs planted beneath his car in mid-air, flip 360 degrees, and still drive away without a scratch on his car. It's just like Grand Theft Auto! Insane Stunt Bonus, baby!

- TRANSPORTER 2 shows that one can hunt down and capture criminals by uploading info from an iPod from one computer to another. Man, my iPod can barely shuffle songs from a playlist without the hard drive going nuts on me, freezing the damn thing. What the fuck?

- Frank jumped from a boardwalk onto a waterski below, flipping the female driver over his shoulder so he can take control. Frank sure knows how to handle the ladies and make them wet.

- Frank used sliced watermelon as boxing gloves. We all laughed at him, but we should have known Gallagher was onto something.

- Frank keeps an extra suit and tie in his car trunk. I guess every girl is crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.

- Lola was killed by a wall of spikes. I'm sure that wasn't her first time being impaled...

- Frank and Gianni were fighting and floating inside an out-of-control spinning airplane that was about to crash. Geez, where's Ted Striker and Otto when you need them?

If you're looking for some intelligence in your action coffee, THE TRANSPORTER and TRANSPORTER 2 are not gonna satisfy your brain. But if you just want to kick back and have fun watching insane stuff happen to people and their cars that would probably never happen in real life, then these two films are the perfect popcorn flicks for your action fix. I'm pretty sure TRANSPORTER 3 will be just as stupid as these two films are and I can't wait. If you haven't seen these films for whatever reason, don't go in expecting much. Follow that rule and you'll enjoy THE TRANSPORTER and TRANSPORTER 2.


  1. I freakin love these movies. I might be because of all the kick ass action, but it may be because I have a bro-mance going on with Statham. (Also I can get my wife to the theater for these because she's in for any movie this dude gets shirtless in, which is basically all of them he's in)I am really looking foward to seeing part 3, and I look foward to hearing what you have to say about it once you see it.

    "Frank used sliced watermelon as boxing gloves. We all laughed at him, but we should have known Gallagher was onto something."

    Pure Genius.

  2. Great Reviews Fred!
    I am looking forward to reading your thoughts on the 3rd installment!

    [Re: Tarconi's role in #3 - unfortunately, he doesn't share a whole lot more screen time with Frank] :-(



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