The Transporter (2002)
20th June 2003
Frank Martin is an ex-special forces mercenary who owns a seriously modified black BMW 7-Series car which is equipped with a number of gadgets that even James Bond would be proud of. And it needs to be, as for the right price Frank will transport anything from one place to another, no questions asked. His life is as precise as the car he drives and all of his jobs are governed by three simple rules:- Once a deal is negotiated, it cannot be changed No names Never open the package They are rules which serve him well and enable him to make a comfortable living on the French Riviera. His car and his excellent driving skills also ensure that he's kept busy by the criminal underworld whilst keeping ahead of the the increasingly curious local police inspector.
However, when he discovers that his next item for delivery is alive and attempting to get out of the bag in the boot of his car he breaks rule number three and opens the bag to reveal the beautiful Lai Kwai. Frank is now in two minds. Does he complete his job and just walk away or does he try to help Lai? Frank regains his senses and places the package back in the boot of the car and continues with his delivery. He even manages to collect a couple more passengers for the boot when two curious traffic police investigate the noise coming from his boot.
Arriving at his destination his clients are more than pleased with the prompt delivery and ask him to transport another parcel. Stopping at a roadside cafe Frank discovers that his clients cargo was of the ticking and exploding variety and that it was a package which was never meant to reach its destination. Frank's returns to the clients house with revenge on his mind. However, his special forces skills are going to be pushed to the limit as he dodges bullets, flying fists and huge explosions. No action hero would be complete without a damsel in distress so when his revenge mission inadvertently results in the rescue of the kidnap victim he ends up having defend Lai Kwai's life, as well as his own.
The picture is bright and colourful with a good level of detail which enriches the sunny climate, and large explosions, of the French Rivera. When the action moves to darker indoor or night time locations the picture clear and precise with a good black level. This ensures the picture remains surprisingly sharp with no real signs of artifacting or pixelisation. The picture quality is also enhanced by an above average bit-rate and a print which is free from dust scratches and other picture imperfections.
For some odd reason some of the more recent action films appear to have toned down their soundtracks. This has resulted in a number of films with rather unadventurous soundtracks with little or no use of the surround and LFE channels. Fortunately, The Transporter makes up for this with some impressive action in the rear channels and floor rattling LFE's to accompany the frequent explosions. From the moment the film starts you quickly become embroiled in a surround sound bonanza with a musical score rich in bass, screeching tyres and sirens attacking you from all directions. And that's just the opening five minutes of the film!
It's certainly a soundtrack that makes you sit up and take more notice of what's happening on screen. It's just a pity that the dialogue can be a little confusing. Jason Statham seems to be attempting, and failing, to play down his English accent whilst Qi Shu struggles to speak English. It's almost as if its being deliberately pitched at an American audience. Mind you, I can't really complain about Qi Shu until I can speak Cantonese as well as she and the other oriental actors speak English.
Unfortunately the extras are a bit like the film - rather lacking in the entertainment department. The Making of featurette is probably its most redeeming feature with some interesting insights into the films production and cast. Mind you, with a running time of 12 minutes it is far too short. The stars even manage not to be too self congratulatory whilst the lovely Shu Qi explains how she learnt English in such a short period of time. With English, French and Mandarin all being spoken on set it's a miracle that the film was ever completed at all!
The rest of what's on offer is on the poor side. The commentary from Jason Statham and producer Steven Chasman must be one of the most boring I've ever heard, so much so I had to turn it off. Some of the fight scenes in the film are too long and a look at the extended fight scenes will reveal just how tedious they could have been. For once I agreed with the decision to remove the scenes from a film.
What starts out as an interesting film, with a good opening scene and car chase to rival the classics, it quickly descends into something that is totally ridiculous and rather boring to watch. I don't know how The Transporter can claim to be "the film that xXx should have been" because its doesn't even come close! It just ends up being like most martial art films - loads of choreographed fight scenes and an incomprehensible or none existent plot.
Without spoiling the plot too much for those who want to see the film, from the moment the kidnap victim is delivered it all descends into a total farce and just why the package contained the girl is never really explained. Also, with all of the fancy fire power and martial art experts at their disposal you would have thought that the gang would be involved in something far more sinister than people smuggling. After all, do you really need rocket launchers, thousands of rounds of ammunition and hundreds of martial art experts who continuously appear from nowhere in order to smuggle ten people in the back of a container?
With Luc Besson lending his name to this film I had hopes that it would be in a similar vein to Nikita or the other Mark Kamen/Luc Besson production Kiss of the Dragon. However, it seems that he's lost his golden touch and at this rate he'll be soon heading for the hell that is direct-to-video. Let's hope that Besson makes a full recovery, and soon. Perhaps he needs needs to avoid Hollywood style productions for a while and get back to his roots in the French film industry.
- Feature Length Commentary by Jason Statham and Producer Steven Chasam
- Making of Featurette
- Three Extended Fight Scenes with Optional Commentary