Director: Corey Yuen
TRASH CINEMA HIGHLY RECOMMENDED MOVIE
It’s hard to believe that anyone involved with the ghastly Transporter 3 had anything to do with the original, but it’s true. Luc Besson produced both movies and Besson and his regular screenwriting partner, Robert Mark Kamen, wrote both scripts.
I dunno, maybe Besson has gotten to the point that he cares so little about action movies that he doesn’t bother with basic craft anymore. That’s the only explanation I can come up with, because the original Transporter could be used as a textbook on how to write action movies.
Like the protagonist, Frank Martin, the script is lean and mean, with almost zero fat. Basically, The Transporter is a series of action scenes strung together with the absolute minimum of exposition, and yet, the writing is so skillful that the leads emerge as strong characters, and you actually care about them somewhat.
How do Besson and Kamen manage this? By tying character to action, which allows them to dispense with traditional character and exposition scenes because they’re woven into the action itself.
Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is an ex-military man who’s managed to carve out a niche in the transportion business. In the first of many simultaneously funny and exciting scenes, Statham lays out the rules of his profession to his employers in the course of a high speed auto chase. Shu Qui co-stars as Lai, who Frank meets unexpectedly in the course of business. It is a mark of the screenwriters’ respect for their characters that Frank maintains his integrity at all times, with hilarious results.
Statham is asked to play a military man who is precise and somewhat rigid, which he pulls off quite nicely. Shu Qui has a more difficult role. She has to make herself irresistable and convincing in a number of contexts. Shu Qui is an excellent actress and was at her loveliest here, and she manages to make Lai the heart of the piece. As usual, Ric Young excels in a slimebag role.
Unlike the later Transporter films, the Inspector Tarconi (François Berléand) character actually makes some sense. Here, he knows that Frank is up to no good, and has a quietly adversarial relationship with him.
The rest of the actors are more generic, but they don’t get in the way, either.
Unlike Oliver Megaton, who helmed the execreble Transporter 3, director Corey Yuen was lucky enough to start off with an excellent action script, and he takes full advantage of it. As you would expect, Yuen directs the martial arts sequences beautifully, and the choreography (also by Yuen) is also characteristically witty. While it may not be Yuen’s best, it’s still damned good. More surprisingly, Yuen directs the car chases with flair, and the gunfire and explosions have plenty of punch, without descending into cartoon mayhem too much.
The only complaint I have about The Transporter is the ending, which is really a script problem. After boffo action all the way through, the screenwriters opt for a quiet ending when I would have preferred a nastier comeuppance for the villains. Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen refuse to indulge our bloodlust in favor of character beats. That may be the high road, but it’s not the one I would have taken.
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