– Summary –
Director : Olivier Megaton
Cast : Jason Statham, Natalya Rudakova, Francois Berleand, Robert Knepper, Jeroen Krabbe, Alex Kobold, David Atrakchi, Yan Sundberg, Eriq Ebouaney.
Year Of Release : 2008
Length : 90 minutes
Synopsis: Frank Martin is forced to drive a mysterious woman through Europe after a colleague fails to deliver on a driving contract. As they do so, Frank uncovers a plan to blackmail a high ranking minister, and sets about doing the right thing.
Review : Lame action flick see’s Statham return as Frank, in this obtuse, fatuous story where cliché and generic, stock characters all vie for the same amount of attention.
Simply put, the man, woman or child who directed this turkey will go down as the man who single-handedly destroyed a great film franchise. Somebody by the name Olivier Megaton, yes, you read that right, has the gall to call themselves a director with this muck. Truthfully, I think Megaton is a pseudonym, after witnessing this trashy, incomprehensible effort in the Transporter series, nobody would seriously allow themselves to have their real name plastered all over it.
Okay, so perhaps I am being a little harsh on the poor guy, but anybody who set’s themselves up with that kind of name can expect to be ridiculed if the film you’re directing is absolute garbage. And let me tell you fine folks, Transporter 3 is utter garbage. Therefore, by the rules of engagement in cinematic critiquing, Megaton will cop a face full from me today.
Where to begin? Well, let’s start with the basic plot. Frank Marshall (Jason Statham) is forced to drive his car again, after being seconded by bad guy Johnson (a stylish Robert Knepper) to drive a young woman to a mysterious, and hitherto unknown, destination. The woman, Valentina (Natalya Rudakova) is initially reluctant to reveal too much about herself, but as the film wears on, and let me tell you, it is wearing, we gradually discover that she’s the daughter of a minister (Jeroen Krabbe) who’s about to sign a valuable agreement to a major company for the disposal of his country’s waste. She’s been kidnapped, forced to become a bargaining chip as Johnson pressures the minister to sign the contract to him.
The plot, such as it is, is fairly typical of most action film clichés, with the honourable father trying desperately to save his daughter from almost certain death, while the resilient (and hunky) hero brawls and drives his way through most of Europe, whilst driving a car that is seemingly impervious to almost all manner of driving conditions, like bullets, explosions, trucks and other cars on the road. Along the way, the hero falls for the mysterious, sexually provocative girl sitting in the car next to him (no matter how unattractive she is in a Euro-trash kind of way) and ends up having to save her from a perilous situation involving a speeding train.
Films like this generally don’t worry too much about things like script development or characterisation, and Transporter 3 hold true to that value system. Dialogue falls from the mouths of our characters like pieced of wood from a pulping mill. There’s very little here that isn’t a generic, clichéd knock off of other films, most of which indicates the very nature of this film series. But where Transporter 2 succeeded with a sense of the sublime and ridiculous, and not taking itself seriously, Transporter 3 seems intent on being quite the opposite. Megaton directs the film like he’s just got himself a new handycam, and is intent on fiddling with almost all the settings. Colour changes, obscure out-of-focus and strange, unsettling visual flashes and image distortion are used in place of actual, legitimate storytelling, making sure TS3 remains one of the least dynamic, shallow entries into the franchise. There’s very little in the way of character development past what we’ve already seen in these films, all the characters seem to be merely going through the motions. It’s action film paint-by-numbers, and it’s annoying.
Megaton seems to direct action in such a way as to make it very un-action-y. Statham delivers the same bag of tricks in this film that he did in both previous entries (and, to some extent, what he’s delivered in most of his action films) and by the end, after his umpteenth stare-at-the-bad-guy-before-punching-on sequence, you begin to tire of the same old, same old. If only the film offered something new, instead of a hackneyed, tired retread of what’s come before. The action feels very forced, very flat and almost anaemic, which is surprising given just how much action the film actually does contain. There’s an awkward sense of hollow, rote-learned genericism here, Transporter 3 is one of the more lacklustre action films of recent years.
Statham gives it his all, don’t get me wrong. He’s still as solid a performer as ever, delivering a masculine, action-star style with his great screen presence. Sure, he’s no Olivier, but he delivers what’s required for a film like this, and delivers in spades. Co-star Natalya Rudakova is barely comprehensible as Valentina, her thick accent and wooden performance hamstringing Stathams own; Rudakova is certainly not the vampish vixen we’d expected. And she looks startlingly similar to the previous films’ mascara-wearing femme fatale, Kate Nauta, which doesn’t help either. Her performance, of all those in the film, is the weakest. The film does, however, have one shining light in the acting department, and that is the presence of Robert Knepper, who’s slimy, vile villain is the perfect counter-punch to Stathams right cross. He’s a nasty piece of work, and Knepper plays it to the hilt, his facial tics and mannerisms indicating a calm, yet frustrated, evil dude.
Knepper cannot overcome the film’s fault on his own, however, and there are some serious lapses in logic and plausibility running throughout the movie. None the least of which is Stathams ability to inflate (and float) his car from the depths of a lake, using only the air from his tyres, and part of some kind of bag. If releasing air from your tyres into a bag, which is of indeterminate airtight capacity, causes a fairly heavy car to float to the surface, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the vehicle would float with the same air in it’s tyres anyway? And I used to fit car tyres for a living, so I know that there’s not enough air inside car tyres to do anything remotely like cause a life-raft to inflate to the point of usability. Little logical flaws like this simply make the film go from fantastically ludicrous to the sublimely moronic. There’s a moment towards the end, which is eerily reminiscent of the recent Angelina Jolie flick Wanted, where Statham boards a train using only a car. Strike one for unimaginative storytelling.
To be honest, I was decidedly unimpressed with Transporter 3, and I am disappointed to admit that. Perhaps, after the stupendously insane brilliance of the first sequel, I was expecting something a little, well, more adventurous. What we are presented with in this film is dull, barely comedic, and overtly stagnant direction of a franchise that, at one stage, looked like it might be a stayer. Unfortunately, it looks like Frank is going to have to trade his Audi in for a more relaxing pursuit of time. While the action and effects are above average, the staging and frenetic editing ensure a frighteningly headache-inducing ride through Europe with Frank, a sullen and un-sexual Valentina, and some of the most obnoxious trash thuggery committed to film this year.
Overall, you’d be well served to merely rent this film on DVD as a weekly hire, rather than paying good money for the cinema ticket. A lacklustre Statham vehicle (pun intended) is in dire need of an injection of enthusiasm that, strangely, you’d think would be delivered in spades by a director with the name Megaton.