Falling somewhere between a Jon Woo movie and Die Hard wannabe, there are really only two ways to consider The Transporter (2002): either as a skilfully staged, slightly art house, high octane chase movie or utterly classless rubbish with a capital 'R'. Co-directed by Louis Leterrier and Corey Yuen, The Transporter is a ticking time bomb of an action flick; explosive and surreal with enough pyrotechnics to terminate half the French Riviera. It stars former fashion model and race car driver, Jeremy Stratham as ex-special forces operator Frank Martin – a resolute man of spurious means who freelances as a mercenary ‘transporter’ of any goods that anyone wants moved in secrecy – no questions asked.
Martin has a heart of stone – presumably, also without a soul – who exploits his hidden talents to the highest bidder in order to finance an envious lifestyle at his remote chateau on the Mediterranean. His latest client is ‘Wall Street’ (Matt Schulze), an American ‘businessman’ who has asked for a special shipment to be smuggled under the radar of the international police. But Martin’s curiosity is peaked when his ‘package’ begins to move. Breaking his own rule of not caring what's being transported, Martin cuts open the ‘package’ to discover a bound and gagged woman, Lai (Shu Qi) inside.
Delivering Lai to her captors, Martin is asked by Wall Street to deliver a briefcase to another client. The case turns out to be a bomb that almost kills Martin and all but vaporizes his prized BMW. Returning to Wall Street's lair, Martin makes mince meat of his enemies and takes Lai back to his ocean side retreat, giving her, her freedom.
The next day Inspector Tarconi (Francois Berleand) arrives with a few polite question to which Martin offers the most evasive of answers. Unable to quantify a reason to arrest Martin, Tarconi leaves. Shortly thereafter, Martin's home is firebombed by men loyal to Wall Street with enough arsenal to invade a third world country, setting into motion a revenge scenario.
Martin makes an executive decision – to protect Lai and get to the bottom of the real story – rescuing Chinese exiles that have been smuggled into France by Wall Street as slave labour. Throughout the rest of the story, Martin will struggle to justify his own thirst for revenge against doing the right thing for Lai; an inner turmoil never more severely investigated than on a wholly superficial level.
In between these brief Hamlet-esque contemplations Martin uses his skills as ex-military to transform the rest of the story into an MTV styled cavalcade of action sequences. Slick and stylish, Jeremy Stratham does some truly astounding manoeuvres and faux karate. The hand to hand combat sequences are really the film's salvation.
The screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen falls into that mindless B-action movie category, but with an intelligently premised espionage tale at its center. Nevertheless, The Transporter delivers the goods – at least, for the most part. Jeremy Stratham makes ambivalent nonchalance seem like the epitome of rough-neck chic. He’s not an actor – just enough of one to make us forget and/or accept his shortcomings. His martial arts prowess and taut body are well exercised during some fairly intense fight sequences that are as much a dramatic interpretation of violence as they represent a sort of bo-hunk wish fulfillment for those testosterone-driven armchair warriors sitting in the dark of their local cinema.
Directors Leterrier and Yuen do a fairly impressive balancing act between the polar extremes of ultra violence and exposition and the results are a fast paced but never mind-numbing experience that give their audiences thrills, chills and all of the anticipated excitement exemplified from the best in this sub-genre. Is The Transporter high art? Hardly. At times it isn't even coherent film making. But on the whole, the narrative clings together - precariously so - and just enough to hold our attention and deliver a harmless night's worth of entertainment. In the final analysis, The Transporter is solid bang for your buck!
Fox’s Home Video's Blu-Ray is single layered - a shame - but still a vast improvement over its previously issued DVD transfer. Colors on the Blu-Ray are fully saturated and stylized. Flesh tones are natural in appearance. In keeping with the stylized palette, contrast levels are bumped up just slightly with a razor sharp clash between darks and lights. Fine details are much more evident on the Blu-Ray.
The overall image is smooth and easy on the eyes. The audio is lossless HD remaster, an upgrade from the DVD's 5.1 mix and is very aggressive across all channels. Now, for the bad news. Fox continues to offer us Blu-Ray movies that do not include all of the extra features included on the DVD! Here, we get only the audio commentary with Stratham. The deleted scenes and featurettes that were included on the DVD have been dumped from the Blu-Ray. For shame!
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)