Once again starring the charismatic Jason Statham as organized crime’s one-man FedEx, “Transporter 3,” the third installment in the Luc Besson-produced action series, boasts a measure of the retro machismo, style and attitude some 007 fans have found lacking in “Quantum of Solace.” But it also has a pointless storyline, incoherent editing and a polyglot cast that renders some of the dialogue utterly incomprehensible. (The most nerve-wracking moment? When someone tries to pronounce “subsidiary.”) Series fans will find adequate action and opening weekend numbers should be high-caliber, but drop-off may be precipitous for this anemic sequel.
Statham is back as mob courier Frank Martin — who never looks at the package, never asks questions and never fails — in this Olivier Megaton-directed chase thriller. Following the high style of Hong Kong’s Cory Yuen (“The Transporter”) and “The Incredible Hulk” helmer Louis Leterrier (“Transporter 2”), Megaton has considerably big shoes to fill. But even with Yuen as his fight choreographer, “Transporter 3” has been CG’d into visual paralysis. Perhaps in an effort to achieve a PG-13 rating, there’s no blood, no visceral payoff in the martial-arts contests and no continuity to the fighting: The cutting in and out as Frank takes apart six or seven trained assassins takes all the vinegar out of the violence.
Toxic waste and what to do with it is the crisis in “Transporter 3,” as some shady characters attempt to coerce Vasilev (Jeroen Krabbe), the head of Odessa’s environmental protection agency, into harboring eight ships carrying a mother lode of bubbling sludge.
To sway Vasilev, a particularly vicious character named Johnson (a convincing Robert Knepper) kidnaps Vasilev’s daughter, Valentina (Natalya Rudakova). Why Vasilev would want her back becomes an immediate question; for most of the movie, she’s Frank’s headache.
Arriving in Frank’s living room through a field-stone wall, Valentina is a bit of a manic-depressive. (“What matters, my name?” she answers when Frank asks. Later: “I want to feel the sex one more time before I die.”) And although Rudakova is Russian, her range is such that she makes a very unconvincing Ukrainian.
The story’s techno-hook is that both Frank and Valentina get shackled into fancy brushed-chrome bracelets that are programmed to blow them to kingdom come if they wander more than 75 feet from Frank’s car, whose grille gets as much screen time as Frank’s face. This bracelet problem triggers some of the pic’s more involved sequences, such as when Frank drives the car off a bridge and has to choose between drowning and exploding. It’s in such moments that “Transporter 3” shows creativity and a sense of humor.
Statham is the real deal, despite all the nut-roll Besson machinations and Babel-esque dialogue. He gives baldness a good name, he can pull off the quiet-man thing without seeming churlish or psychotic, and he has enormous presence.
It’s understandable that producers Besson and Steven Chasman would want an international cast to generate international sales, but the ubiquitous French screen actor Francois Berleand, who plays Frank’s police liaison Tarconi, is much better in French. Casting of a Dutchman (Krabbe) as a Ukrainian government official and Rudakova’s pidgin-English routine only add to the linguistic confusion.
Production values are fine.