Tuesday, March 28, 2006
68. Still Shaking
Lucky me: I haven't watched The Transporter yet, so I don't have to worry about comparing sequels to originals. Although, given Transporter 2, I don't think "worry" is the right word. The sequel is probably as disposable as the first film--and that's fine with me. It is now officially impossible to differentiate among high-speed action pictures, within a certain mid-to-big budget range. The only thing that makes one stand apart from the next, I think, is the star.
This is where Transporter 2 gets it right. Jason Statham saves the picture, not the hand-to-hand-to-foot-to-head-to-sternum-etc. fight sequences, the Aeon-Flux-ish nemesis-vixen, the impossible-trajectory vehicle chases--certainly not the Man on Fire plot. We've seen much of this before; all that's demanded of this kind of movie is a certain level of professionalism and not too much derivative drivel. And as far as the minimum standards of the genre go, Transporter 2 manages not to actively offend or distract. Again, if the movie has merit, it's because Statham as Frank Martin provides a welcome addition to the action figure shelf, carrying to the character the substantial goodwill of previous performances, particularly Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000) for Guy Ritchie--with honorable mentions for Cellular (2004) and the 2003 remake of The Italian Job.
The post-matinee-serial action picture was forged in the '60s by Bond and Steve McQueen, then mutated by the Sly/Arnold/Evil Empire crushinator--followed by an almost-accidental synthesis when filmmakers in the late '80s started throwing punches and shooting bullets at and dropping buildings on Bruce Willis. His post-Moonlighting wiseacre charm and regular-guy looks, receding hairline (despite various 'pieces) and all, rejuvenated the form, weaning the action picture from its steroid habit while maintaining the Big Bang Theory.
Statham, like Willis, knows how to lower his balding head and take it like a man--well, at least the kind who's always half-scowling to himself as the rest of the world either pours it on or gets out of the way. Transporter 2 is sustained by a matter-of-fact performance that almost makes credible his character's Andy Taylor-like lack of firearms: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Frank makes his way through much of this film without a gun. (Althuogh to be fair I should note his better-than-yours kung fu.) Talk about your forceful personalities.
Transporter 2 obeys its own laws--of plot plausibility, characterization, and especially physics (welcome to Luc Besson's world)--and is kept afloat by Statham's--dare I use the word?--nuances. He is square-jawed and steely-eyed, Doc Savage in a suit; but also (almost) reluctant to be the only one in a bad bad world willing and able to slog through it, pulverizing miscreants as he goes. Watching this movie, I was convinced that when the Bond franchise decides they want a working-class hero, they need look no further.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 1:15 PM
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