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.


Anonymous said...

Shhh, I don't want the Bond people to steal Statham from doing a Doc Savage movie.

And Savage almost always wore a suit.


Paul J. Marasa said...


Savage may have "almost always wore a suit," but my memory of him is lodged way in the back of my head, with John Carter of Mars and Fahfred, in the late '60s. Besides, who can blame me? The image I have is of the Bantam paperback covers--scattered all over your wonderful site--where Savage looks more like The Venture Brothers' Brock Samson (Patrick Warburton)--and I know he's supposed to be the psychotic Race Bannon; we're talking about one versatile mold here. But you're right: Doc S. was more like The Transporter than Rambo. Thanks for visiting. And man, Statham would make a good Doc Savage.

Copyright Notice

Content copyright © 2005-2011 by Paul J. Marasa. No part of the written work displayed on this site may be reproduced, linked or distributed in any form without the author's express permission. All images, video, audio and other materials used are deliberately and solely for illustrative purposes connected with each article. Each accompanying element is intended as a research and reference tool with relation to each article. No challenge to pre-existing rights is implied. Aside from The Constant Viewer, the author claims no responsibility for websites which link to or from this website.