TRANSPORTER 3 (2008)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 44 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sequences of Intense Action and Violence, some Sexual Content and Drug Material

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Directed by: Olivier Megaton

Written by: Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen

Starring: Jason Statham, Natalya Rudakova, Francois Berleand, Robert Knepper, Jeroen Krabbe & David Atrakchi

The first two TRANSPORTER films are enjoyable guilty pleasures that took over-the-top silliness and goofy action to absurd heights. These may not be the greatest films in the world, but they entertainingly showcase Jason Statham’s abilities to kick ass six ways to Sunday. Another installment in the TRANSPORTER series wasn’t necessarily a bad idea, but due to poor pacing and shaky directing, this third (and final) Statham entry is a disappointingly dull note to go out on. TRANSPORTER 3 has a few cool ideas and the best villain of the series thus far, but lacks in pretty much every other department…including the most important element of this series: the action!

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Frank Martin has moved back to France and been forced into taking a dangerous new job. Frank’s new client is known simply as Johnson and he’s a very bad man. With a mysterious package and a red-headed young woman in tow, Frank is given alternating coordinates and doesn’t know precisely what he’s transporting, why he’s being forced into doing this and who Johnson is. What Frank does know is that he’s wearing a locked bomb bracelet that will explode if he steps 75 feet away from his vehicle and other people seem intent on putting a deadly stop to his journey. Frank decides that it’s time to violently transport his latest cargo, find out what’s really going on and put a stop to Johnson…after he’s found a way to remove the explosive fashion statement strapped around his wrist, of course.

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There are good ideas in TRANSPORTER 3. The concept of the bomb bracelet is actually pretty cool and serves as a gimmick for some interesting scenes, especially when someone decides to try to hijack Frank’s car. Its creator is the enjoyably scummy Johnson who’s played very well by Robert Knepper. Personally, I think Johnson is the best villain of the TRANSPORTER series thus far…with sexy gun-toting Lola as a close second. It’s a shame that Knepper’s colorful baddie is wasted in the worst Statham entry of the series…which is only marginally better than the lame-brained Statham-free REFUELED. Speaking of Statham, he’s back in full form as Jason Statham…er, I mean Frank Martin. He does what he can to improve the film, but there are a surprising amount of exposition-filled scenes that don’t feature Statham at all in this third outing.

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TRANSPORTER 3’s big problems lie purely in the long running time and piss-poor directing. This is the longest entry in the series and boy, does it feel like it. The reason that the first TRANSPORTER worked so well was that it focused entirely on action with a threadbare excuse for a plot connecting the exciting stunt-filled sequences. TRANSPORTER 2 upped the ante with a storyline that veered into totally ridiculous, overblown territory and allowed for non-stop action as well. TRANSPORTER 3 is nearly two-hours long and features scenes of characters deciding whether or not to sign contracts, a ship populated by side thugs, and the returning Inspector Tarconi trying to piece together the clues behind Frank’s disappearance.

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Of those three time-consuming storylines that I just mentioned, Inspector Tarconi’s mystery was only subplot that was remotely necessary. In a better action movie, the stuff involving the ship thugs and contract signing would be summed up in one or two scenes. Co-writer Luc Besson decides to take up nearly 20 minutes of screen time with these moments. However, there are also a lot of other slow lagging spots between the action sequences as well. It certainly doesn’t help that Natalya Rudakova’s Valentina isn’t exactly a compelling love-interest/damsel-in-distress for the always stoic Frank Martin. She’s a marginal step above Shu Qi’s character in the first movie, but not by much. There’s also a forced moment in which Valentina and Frank have sex in a field…for no reason whatsoever.

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TRANSPORTER 3 spits in the face of logic and physics, but not nearly to the insanely hilarious degree as the previous two installments. To be fair, the only real way one could top the second film’s silliness would be to send Frank to outer space, but this third installment is lackluster and disappointing when compared to the first film’s plot too. I like the idea of the exploding bracelet, but the movie never truly exploits that for everything it’s worth. The action sequences and chase scenes are also soiled by quick editing, headache-inducing flashes, and shaky camera work. A few of these scenes might have been cool too (a showdown at a mechanic’s shop, the final fight between Frank and Johnson, and one particular chase) if the viewer was able to see what the hell was going on in them.

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To be fair, TRANSPORTER 3 has a few bright moments. Statham is doing his usual Statham thing, while Robert Knepper is the best villain that the series has ever seen. There’s also a bit where Statham drives sideways in between two semi-trucks like Clark Griswold on acid. The film has some stupid fun to be had, but this is mostly drowned out by horrible directing, incoherent editing, and a running time that’s far longer than it needs to be. If you’re in the need of some big dumb action films, I recommend sticking with THE TRANSPORTER 1 and 2 and skipping the lackluster later entries altogether.

Grade: C-

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