November 27, 2008

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Transporter 3 (PG-13)
Jason Statham quips, fights bad guy and does some mighty fancy driving, all while looking quite attractive, in Transporter 3, a fun action movie and a very good car commercial.

I could work four full-time jobs, sell all my worldly possessions and still not be able to afford half of an Audi, but Transporter 3 totally had me ready to buy one. Specifically, the model that Statham was driving. Apparently, the car can drive on two wheels at high speeds, is bullet-proof and can fall into a lake, get fished out and still chase down the bad guys. I don’t know that any of these things are necessities, car-wise, for me, but who wouldn’t want a car like that? If a car can chase down a Ukrainian hit squad, it can probably handle the black ice of a New Hampshire freeway.

And if it came with the brawny Statham, so much the better, particularly if, as happens here, he periodically and for no good reason goes shirtless.

Frank Martin (Statham), the driver-for-hire of the previous two movies, returns here as a retired man of action and adventure — retired, at least, until a driver protégée crashes into his living room and leaves him with the fancy car and the “package” he’s been hired to transport. Quicker than you can say “washboard abs,” Frank is fitted with a device that will explode (killing him) if he gets more than 75 feet away from the car and is told to drive a similarly wired Valentina (Natalya Rudakova) all over Eastern Europe. The baddie here is a mysterious Mr. Johnson (Robert Knepper, or as he’s better known, T-Bag of Prison Break fame) who is holding Valentina as part of a negotiation with a Ukrainian official.

Car chases and hand-to-hand combat rule the schedule in Transporter 3, each of which gives us an opportunity to ogle the two best-looking things in the movie — the black Audi and Jason Statham. The car is sleek and pretty, speeding away from trouble without ever really getting a scratch on it. Statham, with his very closely cropped hair and perfect black suits, is also sleek but it’s his ruggedness, his beating up the bad guys (also, without getting much of a scratch) that make him appealing. Even his more absurd scenes — particularly anything that requires him to get romantic with Valentina — work because he’s just so, well, hunky. He’s a big hunk of guy who can make the most unbelievable tough guy stuff (fighting a circle of henchmen by choking them with his well-tailored clothing, for example) believable.

Transporter 3 is total nonsense but it’s also a lot of fun. I don’t know that laughing is the correct response to action, but this movie’s physics-defying action had me chuckling gleefully. Transporter 3 is the perfect movie for those who think the James Bond movies are too thinky and want them to just cut straight to the action. While previous movies in this series have attempted to squeeze in backstory and character development, Transporter 3 goes straight for the good stuff (explosions, car chases, Statham’s bare torso) and takes giddy enjoyment in doing so. B

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, some sexual content and drug material. Directed by Olivier Megaton and written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, Transporter 3 is an hour and 43 minutes long and will be distributed in wide release by Lionsgate on Wednesday, Nov. 26.