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Transporter 3

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Transporter 3
Released on Friday, Dec 5 2008

Director: Olivier Megaton
Screenwriters: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Starring: Jason Statham, Natalya Rudakova, Fran├žois Berleand, Robert Knepper, Jeroen Krabbe
Running Time: 103 mins
Certificate: 15

Frank Martin, the hero of the Transporter series, begins this third instalment on a boat fishing with his old friend Tarconi (Berleand). His hopes of maintaining a quiet life are soon dashed when a car comes ploughing through the wall of his home with a dying man in the front seat and an unconscious girl in the back. Martin finds himself abducted and forced to deliver the girl, Valentina (Rudakova), to Odessa by the sinister Johnson (Knepper, looking uncannily like Dragons' Den's Duncan Bannatyne). The only snag: both Martin and Valentina have been fitted with clunky wristbands that will explode should they move more than 75 feet away from their car.

The semblance of story that wraps around this Speed-like high-concept involves bad guys trying to bring deadly toxic waste into Ukraine. When a politician (Krabbe) objects to the move, his daughter Valentina is snatched and used as blackmail, thus bringing Martin into the fold. This eco-aware plot is rudimentary, acting as a catalyst for car chases, gunfights and brutal combat. In fact, this latest Transporter's story is so much of an afterthought that it may as well have been jettisoned completely to make way for two wall-to-wall hours of Statham punching people.

Unlike many contemporary action movies, Transporter 3 has no qualms about straining credibility and pushing the laws of physics to breaking point. This numbskull flick's daft highlights include Statham using his clothes as weapons in a bizarre bare-torsoed strip fight, escaping pursuers by tilting his car on its side wheels and manoeuvring between two trucks and staying alive underwater by sucking the air out of his car's tires (the latter two stunts cribbed from 007 movies).

Transporter 3's cast are all missing a trick by failing to embrace the comedic value of the movie. Statham is stiff and monotone, a man of big presence and small character - a raised eyebrow a la Roger Moore would at least have given acknowledgement that the muscular Brit is aware of his ridiculous surroundings. Rudakova is nothing but awkward in her big screen debut - Valentina starts off as a bitchy and precious princess and after popping a pill (one of many quick-fixes by the scriptwriters) transforms into a randy redhead. The pair's best bout of verbal foreplay (always accompanied by a drab plinky-plonky piano score) is when Martin rebuffs Valentina's advances to "make sex" and is informed that he must be "the gay".

With a name like Olivier Megaton, Transporter 3's director is only ever likely to make movies of this shallow ilk. His glossy photography gives everything the sheen of an expensive car commercial, making you more likely to buy an Audi A8 than investigate the other films he's directed. He does get a good hold on a sequence where Martin powers through a crowded marketplace to regain his stolen car before his wristband detonates - yet that balance struck between humour and thrills is a one-off as his straight-faced actors are constantly swinging the movie into self-parody.

Another problem with this franchise - albeit trivial and superficial - is the lead character's name. James Bond, Jason Bourne and John McClane sound sharp, no-nonsense, ready for action and evoke unexplainable cool - Frank Martin, on the other hand, could be the engineer who comes around to install your Sky. That drab moniker perfectly suits this unremarkable movie.


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