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The Transporter 2

If you were to walk into The Transporter 2 without having seen the first film in which Jason Statham played a tight-lipped, square-jawed driver, you might have a lot of questions. Even if you did see the first one, you might still have one very burning one: why on Earth did they make a second?

Lifting a basic set-up from last year's Man on Fire without bothering with those annoyances like setting and character development, The Transporter 2 brings Statham back to the role that made him semi-famous. This time around, hero Frank Martin has taken some time out from his usual taciturn and possibly lawbreaking activities to play chauffeur for a young boy (Hunter Clary) from a troubled but extremely powerful family.

Of course the boy's mother is reasonably hot, played by former supermodel Amber Valletta. Of course the boy's father (Matthew Modine) is both important politically and distant personally, so that mom will warm up to this sinewy yet very very moral driver. The sexual aspect flames up and burns out pretty quickly, because director Louis Leterrier knows that we Americans much prefer violence.

Sex and violence collide with wanna-be rocker Kate Nauta, a cold-eyed blonde who dresses up only enough to keep the movie from having outright nudity. As Lola (oh, so cleverly named), Nauta straddles the fine line between actress and videogame character better than perhaps even the women from Resident Evil. Sadly, writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen didn't bother providing her anything more than the outline of her underwear.

Not that anybody has much depth. The Transporter 2 is an almost shocking turnaround from Besson and Leterrier's last collaboration, Jet Li: Unleashed. That film tried to use violence as a counterpoint to the salvation of the soul in art. Sure, it was occasionally awkward, but it reached for something. It's hard to say what The Transporter 2 reaches for, other than unwary moviegoers' dollars.

For instance, though Martin follows a fairly strict don't ask don't tell policy about every other job he has taken but this one, it should not horrify him that the bad guys are, well, bad guys willing to use a kid to cause international terror. He has bonded, however awkwardly, via "The Game," a riddle me this that the kid plays better than your average hobbit. But there's no real explanation for that, and no implication that Martin learns anything, bookending the film with a franchise-building catchphrase (strangely enough, the same as Frasier Crane's), "I'm listening."

We stopped listening, however, after the opening sequence that formed a huge part of the ad campaign. Apparently, Frank sits in his car in an empty parking garage until such time as he must go pick up his charge. Big city, mid-day, and there's no other car in sight, making him a ripe target for a carjacking. Actually, it's just a ripe target for an excuse to show off how well Leterrier can stage an action sequence, and it makes no sense in the context of the film.

Frank must have an inner life, as evidenced by his friend the French cop, Tarconi (Francois Berleand). The poor guy comes to visit and ends up having only enough time to cook and make fools out of the local FBI agents. If you follow the timeline correctly, he may have actually planned a mere 24 hour vacation. I'll give him 48, perhaps, just to be kind to Leterrier.

It's loud, empty but admittedly full of stunts that will make you smile. Who knows if it could have been more? The Transporter 2 is just a by the numbers exercise. If there's any justice, the next number will not be The Transporter 3.


Derek McCaw

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