Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is still transporting. I do not mean that in any figurative sense. Of course he’d just as soon be fishing or dozing to big screen golf in his luxury hideaway, but his reputation as a kung fu-fighting super-smuggler is just too great to leave him in peace. Toxic waste-managing scumbags fronted by an American with bad facial hair and fathomless resources (Robert Knepper, suitably sub-James Woodsish) kidnap Frank and force him to transport once again. Frank’s adorned with a big metal bracelet—should he stray more than a short distance away from his car, the bracelet will blow him to bits. His cargo is the freckly sex kitten daughter of the Ukrainian prime minister (Natalya Rudakova). She’s got a bracelet, too, which is to say their accessories match. She digs it when he kicks ass. He likes her knowledge of Euro-cuisine. Three guesses what’ll transpire between our rugged hero and this pouty party girl.
The Transporter movies are scripted by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. Besson’s the workaholic producer/writer/director with the pom-pom hair, famous for La Femme Nikita, The Professional and The Fifth Element. Kamen wrote The Karate Kid. We can be grateful they inject the franchise with some entertainment value if nothing else. The plot mechanics of Transporter 3 are invariably inane. A car crashes through Frank’s wall; medics arrive, usher the bloodied driver into the ambulance and speed way without ever noticing the passenger spread out in the backseat. Frank escapes a watery grave by inflating some plastic bags with air from the car’s tires; when he and the car safely re-emerge in their makeshift dingy, lo and behold, the tires are full once more and the car ready for action. No one’s fooling anybody here. The dumbness is almost a selling point.
If only the suspiciously monikered Olivier Megaton could direct Transporter 3 with efficiency, or something like competence. He composes the simplest scenes from 25 shots when maybe three would serve. The movie’s a visual mess and, unlikely as it sounds, even confusing. It doesn’t help that Rudakova’s innocent is mostly just annoying. Or that the fight scenes shamelessly recycle ideas from the previous Transporters. But we always have Statham, that great underachiever of contemporary movies. Granted, the guy must incredibly work hard to be able to do all those martial arty sequences, using his jacket, shirt and tie as grappling tools so as to make the fights a sort of slapstick striptease. But has no one taken this perfectly charming, clearly talented, ruggedly handsome and unusual actor and offered to find him a new agent? Has no smart casting director, producer or director caught on the fact that Statham is ripe for something more interesting? Or is Statham just waiting to get through War 4, Transporter 9 or The Albanian Job before he accepts that he could be so much more than the next Dolph Lundgren?