Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Directed by Olivier Megaton
Following another three year hiatus during which time star Jason Statham saw his international stardom continue to grow with a series of adrenaline fueled action vehicles, series caretakers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen were at it again for a third Transporter film, this time returning protagonist Frank Martin (Statham) to his European roots following a pit stop in Miami for part 2. The former army man, now self-employed driver, is back in France, where he enjoys pleasant fishing expeditions with Inspector Tarconi. His relaxing time off is brutally disturbed one night when a car crashes into his living room, driven by an accomplice of his that Frank himself vouched for not long ago for a contract. Frank discovers Valentina (Natalya Rudakova) in the back seat, and it isn’t long before Frank finds himself caught in yet another daredevil mission with another human being as the package. This time the villain is the mysterious Johnson (Robert Knepper), man working for an unnamed company seeking to force Leonid Tomilenko (Jeroen Krabbé), a Ukranian politician and Valentina’s father, into signing an agreement that would allow ships transporting carrying toxic material to make their rounds unopposed.
While it should be obvious to those that saw the first two entries in the series that their plots were lightly based on real world issues and then taken up considerable notches to create high flying adventures where anything could happen, Transporter 3 tries to take its plot a bit more seriously than the previous two instalments did. It was during the first decade of the new millennium that the topics of climate control and global warming began to truly captivate the political debates raging the world over and how to protect the planet from humankind’s own calamitous practices. It comes as little surprise therefore that mainstream films began to take advantage of such a real world, global problem and use them to make important points all while entertaining audiences. With that in mind, Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen take a few steps back from the overt ludicrousness of the second film and attempt to produce the most grounded, gritty iteration of the adventures of Frank Martin they can. The movie does not shy away from a few light-hearted moments, the standout being a scene in which Frank has to catch up with a speeding vehicle by riding on a mini bicycle, but generally Transporter 3 is the most straight-faced episode yet.
For starters, even more so than in the original movie, Frank and the leading lady, in this case the very attractive, independent minded Valentina, form a strong connection with one another. They don’t start things off swimmingly as both are under the incredible duress created by their circumstances, but eventually warm up to each other in ways that surpass even what Frank and Lai had in The Transporter. One begins to get the feeling that Frank may have found someone he could maybe, just maybe, settle down with. This is a new element introduced into the series, as Frank has since the start made it clear that he doesn’t like complicated things, which include women (his words). This turn of face, while a little forced at times, at the very least provides the protagonist with a different dynamic to work with than has been the case in the past. What holds some of the scenes back however is Natalya Rudakova’s acting. She is unquestionably easy on the eyes, but her skills as a thespian are limited to say the least. A little bit of research on the the film’s production reveals that Luc Besson discovered her in New York as she was heading to her shift at a hair salon. He paid for 25 acting lessons before simply giving her the role.
Rudakova’s finite acting rage is the least of Transporter 3’s problems however. Chief among the issues plaguing the project is the direction of Oliver Megaton. Anyone that has seen Colombiana and the Taken sequels has been witness to some of the sloppiest, choppiest cinematography and editing featured in action movies in recent years. The fact that Megaton has continued to earn work as a director since Transporter 3 (lest it be forgotten that Taken 3 was released in January of 2015) is perplexing, and that’s putting it kindly. Be it a potentially rousing sequence of acrobatic fisticuffs in which Frank utilizes his shirt and tie as weapons, or simple establishing shots of Inspector Tarconi investigating the scene of a crime, everything in the film is edited to bits and pieces. No stone is left unturned in Megaton’s mission to make literally every instant of the film resemble a high-octane music video. A better comparison still might be with a movie trailer. Images are cut at super high speed in trailers, but that is because the studios want to tantalize audiences with images of the movie they should get excited about. To employ the same technique for the actual movie is folly. Only the most ADHD afflicted individuals could watch Transporter 3 and be enthralled by the visual storytelling and even they might be struck at how quickly images are flying by. Megaton and his editor Camille Delamarre, the latter returning from the second film (which, interestingly enough, had poorer editing than the first…) hammer the death nail for Transporter 3.
Would the film have represented the apex of movie making with a clearer editing process? Of course not. It’s a simple action movie that aims to impress with a cool and dangerous protagonist, a sexy female lead and some colourful character actors the likes of Robert Knepper and the wonderful Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbé. As it stands however, everyone is lost at sea in a mess of a movie that has difficulty with the simplest of establishing shots. This hurts the film on nearly all fronts. The greatest disappointment is how badly the action beats are affected, especially considering what Jason Satham does at times to his assailants. The aforementioned scene in which a shirt and tie are used to weapons is neat in theory, but good luck to anyone that wants to decipher what actually happens. Even the dialogue scenes with Knepper and Krabbé, both of whom have been known to give really great performances as off kilter, strange characters, are afflicted.
It truly is a shame that Transporter 3 ends up being the lesser of the first three films because its script seems to want to aim a little higher than the previous two films did by tackling a serious, global issue, to say nothing of the fact that the filmmakers appear to have found a female character that can warm Frank’s heart enough for him to reciprocate feelings. Unfortunately, the movie cannot shift its gears out of reverse due to a disappointing performance from Natalya Rudakova (although Luc Besson can be blamed for wanting to cast her in the first place) and catastrophically messy editing. Frank Martin would continue his adventures on television in 2012 with a series that ran a few years, but it would be a long time before studios saw fit to bring him back to the silver screen.
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