Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is the kind of man who can kill with a fire hose while balancing on one leg and spinning around in circles. He's also pretty good with cars, driving them that is. Frank is a transporter, which means he drives cars though he's not exactly a truck driver or a chauffer. If you've seen the previous film to which this one is a sequel, you'll know that he's a professional getaway driver, hired out by thugs and rich businessmen to get them where they're going without any Imperial, er... police interference. If you haven't seen the previous film then you're already lost, since Transporter 2 wastes no time on back story, preferring instead to jump right into the action as if its picking up a few moments after the first movie left off.
Frank takes his job and his car very seriously. He lives and thrives on precision, precision driving, precision shooting, and precision karate kicking. He's not a criminal exactly, just a guy who gets people where they want to go without asking any questions. In fact, he's anything but lawless; it's simply a question of whose laws he follows. Frank has his own set of strict rules, and he adheres to them even though it might mean his life.
Movie two finds Frank working outside his normal world of getaway driving for criminals. When it opens, he's picking a little kid up from school. As a favor, he's agreed to temporarily fill in for a friend of his, who drives limo for a wealthy US politician. Frank, being the hardened old softie that he is, gets sentimental towards the kid and agrees one morning to drive him to the doctor for his hot, extremely horny mother. To ease the kid's fear of shots, he promises him he won't let anything happen to him. Of course that's when something does. The doctor's office is a setup, and a gang of thugs take the kid prisoner, ostensibly to ransom him back to his parents. Determined to keep his word Frank hunts down the thugs to save the kid, only to discover this isn't a simple ransom, it's a poorly thought out, ridiculously contrived plot device.
Let's get this out of the way right now: the original Transporter is a terrible movie. There's really no way around it. The problem isn't Statham; he's a charismatic and interesting figure as an action star. But the rest of the thing is a total and utter abortion. So it's odd to hear myself saying that Transporter 2 isn't. Now don't get me wrong, the plot is utterly ridiculous and so full of holes Statham could (and does) do flying karate kicks right through them. The villains are ridiculous and a great deal of the time the film is unintentionally laughable. But it's as if this time around the film has simply given up trying to be good and utterly embraced being super bad. Director Louis Leterrier doesn't seem to care how crappy Luc Besson's script is, he just wants to make the thing look good. The movie may suck, but he's determined to make it fun in spite of that.
I wonder if it has anything to do with his background. Leterrier served as Artistic Director on the first movie, and really artistic visuals seem to be all he's really interested in. Sculpted women strut through the film toting sleek looking guns though rain, kitsch wallpaper, and art museums. Statham strides confidently through the streets in sharp suits and glares with dark purpose out from under his heavy brow. The action is often stupid, but also entertaining and even occasionally striking. In the places where it isn't, it's more the obvious result of lack of budget rather than lack of vision. Leterrier gives his terrible film a unique, fun, and fairly engaging style. Statham batters his way through the film like the world's most stylish gorilla. Together, the two make Transporter 2 entertaining enough that the terrible script wrapped around it doesn't destroy the film the way it did with the first movie. I wouldn't want to push this as one of the better movies of the year, but nor does it sink to the level of the first flick. Transporter 2 is a strange little diversion, one that delivers fun almost in spite of itself.
Reviewed By: Joshua Tyler