I'm beginning to see a pattern here, and I'm thinking that The Transporter, if it has the legs for more movies, could be the franchise equivalent of being a poor man's cousin to James Bond. Created and written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen for three installments so far, the character of Frank Martin is a roguish looking strongman with a penchant for suiting up when going about being the best of the best in personalized delivery, with no questions asked, no names, and a whole host of other rules which he will of course break during the course of the movie.
Like Bond, he drives a cool, sponsored signature car. While Bond has his Aston Martins and BMWs, Frank Martin traded his BM in the first movie, for the armoured Audi A8 W12 which he has brought over from the second film, and here, that sweet supercar got to be put through even more punishment. It also shows itself to be a cut about the rest in being waterproof too, and an occasional dunk in the river won't put out the powerful engine, with tyres that self-inflate too (ok, so just in case you don't realize, I'm pointing out mistakes).
And it follows the Bond formula in having the Chick of the Flick highlight too. Shu Qi came on board in the first film as the vixen who traded her body to convince Frank to take the job. Then we had the good girl-bad girl combination for Part 2 with Amber Valletta and Kate Nauta respectively. Here, model Natalya Rudakova, with her very obvious freckles getting in the way, continues from where Shu Qi left off, being the flower vase who can't speak English fluently no thanks to her strong accent, and that's fine since their characters hail from a non-English speaking country.
Director at the helm has been round robin too (now by Olivier Megaton), with Hong Konger Corey Yuen crafting the first movie, before taking the back seat in every film by taking charge of how Frank Martin does hand to hand combat. So we do get to see some consistency in the technique that Jason Statham adopts in performing martial arts and various stunt work on his own, and Statham definitely has what it takes to fill up the void of having the lack of Western action heroes on the big screen. I suppose with more hits under his belt (pardon the pun) he could cement this status, and I sincerely hope that he avoids the plague of being relegated in his later years to the direct to video market.
As far as the story goes, it just provides a basic premise and an excuse to see how our hero gets to sit behind the wheel again. The Frank Martin now is more laid back, and spends most of his leisure time with the French detective Tarconi (Francois Berleand) whom he has befriended now. Until of course his reputation catches up with him, and in a Crank inspired moment, has to do what he does best for the bad guys, much against his wishes. The villains almost always seem to be part of what's topical at the moment, and this time Frank Martin has to contend with some eco-terrorists who are blackmailing a minister, involving some permit for industrial waste.
But who cares about any semblance of the plot anyway? We're looking for some adrenaline pumping, high octane action aren't we all? And here's where it takes a slide for the worse actually. Unlike Bond, there isn't anything new or refreshing to keep the audience engaged and away from the deja-vu feeling. For some reason, Besson and Kamen's story seemed to be stuck in a lot of drama and talk-talk-talk, giving our hero not much time to flex his muscles. And when he gets the chance to, it's the same old one-man-surrounded-by-thugs routine where he effortlessly dispatches them all with aplomb.
Such fight scenes are becoming common in The Transporter franchise, and Corey Yeun definitely needs to rejuvenate his action sequences designed for the franchise pronto. There are only two major fisticuffs scenes, and they all follow the same routine, which spells boring. And apart from that, we get the usual complementary car chases which seem to be rather standard with the usual camera shots and angles capturing the action too.
Fans of the series and of Statham will no doubt make a bee line at the box office for this, but I suspect that should there be any more thoughts on extending the franchise beyond the three films, then while the formulaic plot format can be kept, the action better be innovative because nobody likes seeing the same thing twice. Since different directors got a chance to have a go at the franchise, perhaps a change in action choreographers might give Frank Martin the lift that he needs.