The “Transporter” series, which long ago dropped the “The” from its titles, has reached its third installment, “Transporter 3.” Please, do try to curb your enthusiasm.
The movie opens with transporter-extraordinaire Frank Martin (Jason Statham) fishing in the middle of the lake. He spins a sad tale of locking reels and rusty hooks; you see, Martin’s father never taught him how to fish, but this isn’t a daddy issue. It’s a fishing issue. A big, plodding issue that’s too glossy for its own good.
It’s a cute thing, watching a man of Statham’s build and reputation try to spin philosophy like the greats did. It’s sort of like watching a hulking car shoot into the air and then clumsily land onto a train. Oh, don’t worry, “Transporter 3” has that covered too.
The movie’s big gimmick, a distance-sensitive wristband that will go “boom” if Martin strays too far from his car, is nifty indeed but severely underutilized. If you’ve seen the trailer, you literally know the extent of its use: Don’t forget to fast-forward to the final five minutes to watch the writers force it into the main plot. The hook is out of place and frivolous, and what hurts the film the most is how inconsistent its function, the big explosion, is. Martin can be a football field away from the car, and the thing won’t bother him a bit, but when he’s 20 feet away, the wristband won’t stop beeping.
The eye picks out everything else that looks out of place. Valentina, the obligatory girl, adds nothing to the story but something for the young boys to look at. Played by Natalya Rudakova, she spends most of her time looking out the car window, probably because the car she’s in is too boring. You should try not to be too hard on her once she gets high; she’s really trying hard not to look stupid.
Unfortunately, Statham follows suit, bringing his body to the show, and little else. He throws punches with the best of them, but his…er…assets don’t leave much to the imagination. Once you’ve seen the sun reflect off his pecs (in slow-motion) for the fourth time, you know where his, and the movie’s, priorities are.
This is an advertisement for all of the boys who like fast cars, Jason Statham and the women who surround him. Every element is pushed down to levels that are clean-cut, doughy and safe. The editing is a canned take on every “MTV Cribs” you’ve ever seen, and it’s unfortunately too genuine to be taken as a parody. Even Robert Knepper, who is so awfully good as T-Bag in “Prison Break,” has been muzzled to a point of smeared monotony, which fits his character’s name (Johnson).
The fights are unpolished, and the choreography makes itself awkwardly present. When the fight scenes aren’t exciting, something’s wrong with the formula. But when the chase scenes feel overplayed in a “Transporter” film, no less, something’s wrong with the direction. Olivier Megaton keeps everything lurching at a snail’s pace, and no amount of “cool” transitions can mask the movie’s pacing issues. Even Statham seems disillusioned by the process; he barely lets his swagger out.
“Transporter 3” is a dolled up, hopelessly lame time at the movies. It thinks it’s so much cooler than it actually is, and its false speed, while initially maddening, actually doesn’t warrant itself that much emotion, and it devolves into pure “meh.”