‘Transporter 2’ no special delivery
Bringing up the decline of car chases cuts to the heart of the shortcomings of “Transporter 2,” because it’s essentially just one big car chase.
Probably starting with “Bullitt,” chase scenes became a sure-fire gimmick, as regular as the mailman. The mailman analogy is on purpose and on target for “Transporter 2” because that’s basically what title character Frank Martin does: He delivers. And if you were given to the cheap sound bites you find on movie cases, you could gush that the original “The Transporter” three years ago delivered four-on-the-floor action and deadpan humor from Jason Statham, who does his own stunts.
“Transporter 2” tries to wring whatever’s left out of the concept. Statham’s back behind the wheel of a German 12-cylinder, playing by his rigid set of rules, delivering valuables and fighting the thugs who get in his way in a Jackie Chan-style circle. Instead of letting the franchise stagnate, there’s some real innovation at work in the sequel: This time, Frank drives an Audi instead of a BMW, he’s in Florida instead of Europe, and instead of a surprisingly spry plot involving immigration and Triad gangs, he’s got a bad amalgam of last year’s “Man on Fire” and “The Rock” to deal with.
But the plot’s really an excuse for Statham to play the world’s baddest, baldest UPS man and get in an extended car chase with South American drug cartels, Russian mob enforcers, Miami police … whoever didn’t chase him in the first installment. At least the UPS truck and a uniformed antihero showing what Brown can do for a drug czar’s kidnapped son might have made the chase scenes less dreary.
For “Transporter 2″ ” and it certainly seems like there’ll be a third installment ” the chase is the thing. While the first movie made a wise choice in relying on Statham and some surprisingly clever hand-to-hand fights, the chase is the motor that makes the sequel go. Maybe it’s because ” despite moving to Aspen last month ” I’ll likely never own a W-12 Audi with bulletproof windows, but except for the frenetic fender-benders of “The Bourne Identity”/”Supremacy,” I can’t think of any cinematic car chases that nobody had done before. Perhaps if Frank bought a 1988 Audi 80 from his uncle Bob and totaled it on some black ice near Edwards ” like I did ” the chase could suck me in.
But Statham deserves a better vehicle than that (or the UPS truck) ” and a better vehicle than “Transporter 2,” which seems as much as a mini-audition for a buff, bald Bond as it does an Audi commercial. That move would invigorate one moribund franchise and save us from having to watch another one, with Statham, wearing the brown knickers, picking up his next assignment in a UPS truck.
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