The Transporter (2002) / Action-Thriller

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violent sequences and some sensuality
Running Time: 92 min.

Cast: Jason Statham, Shu Qi, Matt Schulze, Francois Berleand, Ric Young
Director: Corey Yuen
Screenplay: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Review published October 5, 2002

I remember a quote from a source I've long forgotten when describing the recent trend of Hong Kong film directors making movies in other countries stating, "You can take the director out of Hong Kong, but you can't take Hong Kong out of the director."  After seeing such poor films by Hong Kong directors done outside of their usual realm by John Woo (Windtalkers), Ronny Yu (Formula 51), and now Corey Yuen (The Transporter), I would amend that line with, "You might not be able to take Hong Kong out of the director, but you can take director out of the director."

Although I've been a bit disillusioned lately with the current crop of defecting directors, I was still eagerly anticipating The Trasporter due to the past track record of Corey Yuen.  Fong Sai Yuk (reworked as the Legend for the US release) ranks among my favorite kung-fu films of all time, and the sequel doesn't fall too close behind.  Although he hasn't done anything as worthwhile since, The Transporter is still a major disappointment for Yuen because of the association with Luc Besson, who provides the screenplay.  Yuen has made entertaining films without good scripts, and considering Besson has written such modern classics in the action genre as La Femme Nikita, Leon (The Professional), and The Fifth Element one would have thought this film couldn't miss.  Now that Besson has followed up his worst effort in Kiss of the Dragon with another dud, one could almost claim that he might have fallen off as well.

Brit actor Jason Statham, who most viewers will probably recognize from Guy Ritchie's Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, plays Frank Martin, a former military special ops agent who currently is a driver for hire for anyone willing to pay his expensive salary for moving things from one place to another in one piece and  without getting caught.  Frank lives by three fundamental rules: 1) Don't change the deal, 2) No names, and 3) Never look in the package.  However, Frank compromises himself when he looks in a particular moving package revealing a young Asian woman named Lai, who proves more valuable than anything he's transported before if the men who are trying to kill him are any indication. 

The Transporter falls into the same sub-genre category as the recent Vin Diesel flick, XXX, a supercharged no-brain actioner that is content to reduce the screenplay to a bare minimum and amp up the noise and explosions in place of the missing dialogue.  On the positive side, Statham does a commendable job carrying the action, and Shu Qi (So Close, Martial Angels) has some appeal as the young woman who causes his life to turn upside down.  However, the rest of the cast falls far short in credibility, with the main antagonists in particular lacking the formidability or charisma to be truly menacing...or at least interesting.

The same might be said of the film as a whole, as The Transporter lacks distinction among the current crop of bad action films, with its emphasis on style over substance, and music video style editing.  Besson's script is merely a retread amalgamation of his previous works, lacking in both freshness and inventiveness, and the film suffers from poor characterization and development.  Perhaps the threadbare nature caused Yuen to churn out extended action sequences that get noisier and more unbelievable with each successive occurrence, but without a solid foundation of fondness for the characters, the result evokes a Shakespearean quote:  Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

the Transporter is recommended only for people who loved XXX and demand more of the same to tide them over until the next Vin Diesel explode-a-thon.  Among other films in the bad action genre, it certainly isn't the worst.  It's just more of the same.

Qwipster's rating:

2002 Vince Leo