Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Transporter 2

Posted By on Wed, Sep 7, 2005 at 12:00 AM

Action heroes don’t get much more touchy-feely than the Transporter. For the first half-hour of this sequel to the 2002 semi-hit, tough-guy chauffeur Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is so sensitive, he should place a personal ad: “Closeted GWM, British, athletic build, interested in classical music, sports sedans, martial arts and adopting children, seeking life partner.”

The first Transporter was a proudly ludicrous piece of Eurotrash with a Hong Kong action pedigree, a hot star and a thinly veiled gay subtext — the latter even acknowledged by associate producer Louis Leterrier in interviews (no big surprise considering Statham spent half the movie shirtless and coated in motor oil). Defying all laws of logic, gravity and physics, it was a monosyllabic thrill ride that didn’t bother with suspension of disbelief, since the filmmakers didn’t take themselves seriously in the first place.

Though it may seem impossible, the sequel is even more ridiculous and over-the-top than the first. The setting is Miami, where Martin has demoted himself to transporting the insufferably cute son (Hunter Clary) of a spoiled-rotten couple (Amber Valletta and Matthew Modine) back and forth to school. Being the Transporter, it takes all of 10 minutes of screen time for trouble to find him, this time in the form of a sniveling kidnapper (Alessandro Gassman) backed by a posse of multi-ethnic baddies, including double-gunning dominatrix Lola (Katie Nauta). Brandishing more firepower than a SWAT team, they proceed to lay waste to half the city in an attempt to carry out plans even more nefarious than child ransom. Imagine a really dumbed-down version of Collateral, or maybe a really good game of Grand Theft Auto, and you’re halfway there.

Promoted to the director’s seat for the sequel, Leterrier seems to understand that the Looney Tunes style of the first film was part of its appeal. He ups the ante by adding more cars, boats, buses, planes and Jet Skis, all of them performing stunts that probably aren’t recommended in their owner’s manuals; transportation vehicles haven’t seen this much abuse since the first Speed movie.

The fight choreography is also improved. Martial-arts scenes reach their pinnacle in a sequence involving paint cans, scaffolding and one conveniently placed fire hose. If there’s a complaint, it’s that the finale, as silly as it is, doesn’t come close to topping the action that preceded it.

Anchoring it all is the granite-bodied, stylish Statham. When he’s not coming up with improvised explosives or icing bad guys with hospital equipment, MacGyver-style, he’s busy polishing his precious Audi or tending to his impeccable black suit.

Though he spends more time with his shirt on, he seems even less hetero-inclined than in the first film. When Valletta’s character comes on to him, he rebuffs her by saying, “I can’t — because of who I am.” When she tells him she’s confused, he replies, “Who isn’t?” It’s enough to make you hope that the next Transporter will include a guns-blazing coming-out scene.

Michael Hastings writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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