I can’t call Transporter 3 a good movie. It’s big, dumb, preposterous, occasionally nonsensical and, more often than not, utterly ludicrous—so calling it first-rate would be quite an overstatement. However, this does not keep it from being 100 minutes of entertainment wrapped up in a ridiculous action movie.
Actually, Marc Forster, Paul Haggis and everyone else involved in Quantum of Solace should have spent less time lifting ideas from the Bourne films and more time taking a few cues from this series instead. For whatever shortcomings accompany the Transporter flicks—their inherent trashiness, their incredulity—they’re never glum, self-serious or humorless. They’re actually damn fun—and something Quantum of Solace’s Mr. Bond could learn a thing or two from.
Directed by Olivier Megaton (whose real name is Olivier Fontana—I can’t quite blame him for ditching his old moniker), this latest entry in the Transporter series finds our hero, Frank Martin (Jason Statham), seemingly retired from his days of transporting odds and ends for any ne’er-do-well with deep enough pockets. The film opens with Frank spending his days fishing and discussing the French people’s obsession for Jerry Lewis with his old pal Tarconi (François Berléand), a French police inspector.
It’s only when friend and fellow transporter Malcom Manville (David Atrakchi) fails to deliver a package that Frank begrudgingly agrees to go back to work and finish the job for a disreputable American named Johnson (Robert Knepper, Hitman). Of course, Johnson is the kind of mustache-twirling villain (even though he only has a goatee, which he really ought to stroke instead) that you just know is evil because he shoots his own anonymous henchmen.
Back in the game, Frank sets off in his Audi, accompanied by a mysterious Ukrainian woman (newcomer Natalya Rudakova) with a Zagat-like knowledge of European seafood restaurants. Oh, and they’re each sporting a wristband that’ll explode if either one goes more than 75 feet from the car. It’s all a matter of Frank unraveling the nefarious plot in which he’s become entangled. This has something to do with the Ukrainian president (Jeroen Krabbé, Ocean’s Twelve) and a cargo ship full of toxic waste that looks an awful lot like baked beans.
But the plot is mere window dressing, since the movie’s real purpose is to showcase Statham fighting leather-jacket-clad heavies of indistinguishable European descent and driving his car through various Continental locales, with the random gunfight, explosion, BMX bike chase or Statham taking his shirt off for the sake of badass-ery thrown in to spice things up. While Megaton shoots his fight scenes in close and with tons of quick cuts—to punctuate just how exciting all this is supposed to be—it never quite tailspins into jumbled confusion. Instead, for the most part, Megaton manages to keep everything coherent and decipherable, while also realizing that a Stooges song automatically makes any action sequence better.
Transporter 3 just sweats absurdity (like dredging a sports car from the bottom of a river using gym bags), but everyone involved seems to realize where these movies rank on the hierarchy of quality cinema. Is this flick likely to place Megaton in the pantheon of great filmmakers? (von Sternberg! Eisenstein! Bergman! Megaton!) No, of course not. But as far as being a silly, amusing actioner, Transporter 3 does that quite well. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, some sexual content and drug material.