If the producers of “Transporter 3″ had wished to add a bit more zest to their franchise and enliven the series with oodles of oomph, they should have hired the “Top Gear” gang as creative consultants. That way, while whirling around the continent, Frank Martin, the titular Marseilles-based driver, could have outgunned jet-packed kayaks on Icelandic fjords, or transformed his sports car into a stretch limousine, or ditched his rather mundane, pedestrian looking Audi for something a bit mad, such as the ferociously fast Koenigsegg, or even evaded swarms of priapic hot rods in an entirely inappropriate set of wheels: we’ve had Mini and Bug chase scenes. Why not a Smart car?
Disappointingly, especially for a movie helmed by the born-to-be-an-action-flick director Olivier Megaton, the film, particularly the car stunts, too often feels dumbed down, lackadaisical and uninspired. But this isn’t entirely surprising when a film chooses a central plot device which forces the occupants of his auto, by pain of death, to remain ensconced in the car. ”Sommes nous la’ encore?” While Martin’s behind the wheel, the movie feels staunchly hemmed in, strangely claustrophobic, and akin to a derivative scavenger hunt. The moments in the car with Frank carting his quarry-in-arms, a diplomat’s party-hardy daughter by the name of Valentina, across Europe are notably strained and clunky. Freckles and sparkles framing raccooned, club-bleary eyes, Valentina is played by Natalya Rudakova as a spoiled, unlikable minx. This is Rudakova’s first film; she already feels typecast.
The irony is that outside the confines of the car, the hand-to-hand combat scenes crackle. As Martin, Jason Statham, owner of an Easter Island mug and an 8-pack verging on 10, unleashes brackish, bare knuckle fury on the dozens of pipe, chain and knife wielders sent to the slaughter, seemingly, by the EU’s Ministry of Scowls. These martial arts sequences, overseen by noted stunt coordinator Corey Yuen, provide the film’s humor and panache: a running joke appears to suggest that Statham is so encumbered by his immaculate sartorial sense that he must disrobe during these exhaustive onslaughts, utilizing his jacket, shirt and silk ties as weapons. A bike scene scampering along cobbled streets and through shop windows is similarly well executed and clever.
While he embodied the cool, cheeky chappy in “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch,” and bulked up to a certain rugged, leading man quality in “The Bank Job” earlier this year, Statham, who sounds like he perpetually needs a lozenge, has never been asked to deliver much dialogue in the “Transporter” films. He undoubtedly possesses a brooding presence which is compelling. So perhaps the producers should have dropped the pretense of a relationship and simply allowed him to tear across Europe with abandon, fleeing from foes, skirting the law, this time in a caravan.