Kevin's Review: Transporter 3 - Out of Gas
by Kevin Powers
November 26, 2008
Jason Statham as Frank Martin is probably the coolest, sexiest chauffeur in recent history, but no amount of stubble, abs or Audi adventures can save the recent installment of Transporter 3. Maybe it was the rising gas prices that left little money to upholster much of a story or hire a decent female lead. My bet is on the latter, because the Transporter series has never needed much of a plot, and Natalya Rudakova as Statham's companion Valentina is absolutely horrible - almost unbearable, in fact. While the first Transporter was a surprise hit that earned Statham some suave cred on both physical and vehicular fronts, the second favored the car more than Statham's physique. This time around, director Olivier Megaton pulls no punches in pulling off Statham's shirt and tilts the scales in the opposite direction, focusing on the speed of sex over the automobile. I think we can safely say that the Transporter has finally run out gas.
For those girls (or guys) that nevertheless want to belly up to Statham's, feel free. But know that you'll probably want to kill Valentina's character yourself before the movie is done. I would give the film a few more stars if only Martin had delivered a solid backhand at least once. (If you've seen the film, you know there is more than one deserving occasion.) Instead, he somehow falls for the freckles and broken English, resulting in some truly tiresome scenes. Eye candy on either side isn't unwelcome, but these scenes are really just awkward flirtation, which even goes beyond the stunted and lame attempts in Twilight.
Martin meets Valentina as a result of a job gone wrong by one of Martin's criminal peers. Swarthy crime boss Johnson (Robert Knepper) convinces Martin to complete the job, using distance-triggered explosive bracelets as insurance. Meanwhile, Knepper is blackmailing the head of the Environmental Protection Agency into allowing suspect ships to dock in his port; it's a sub-plot with environmental overtones that never really develops, nor seems necessary. As Martin transports "the package" around Eastern Europe, an expected high-speed chases ensue, and an unusual amount of time is spent on Martin and Valentina learning to like each other. Statham has a few noteworthy hand-to-hand fight scenes, which oddly all involve bad guys forming a circle around him. It's all show for sure, lacking any real suspense.
The automobile antics this time around stretch the realm of reality too far, even by Transporter standards. Sure, in the second film Martin was able to flip the car laterally to knock off an explosive attached to the car's underbelly, but the manner in which he escapes a particularly wet situation here is just ludicrous. Transporter 3 is a stunt man's dream, because that's pretty much all you're watching - well-crafted action, void of any tension or excitement. The film is apparently also one step up from the neighborhood theater (and maybe even that's generous) considering Rudakova and other cast-mates' abilities.
Beyond Statham's baseline appeal, the only other factor that makes Transporter 3 worthwhile is the lead villain, played by the devilish Robert Knepper. Most might remember him from TV's "Prison Break" as the Southern sadist T-Bag. While his accent is gone, his predatory stare and cold demeanor remains. With Knepper's appeal and the lacking state of other characters in Transporter 3, I found myself really hoping the bad guy would win. I doubt I spoiled much by saying that; it seems hard to spoil something that's stale and stalled to begin with. Some may still want to see it "just because" (as I did), but know what kind of a ride you're in for before getting into this car.