Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Jason Statham, Alessandro Gassman, Amber Valletta, Francois Berleand, Kate Nauta, Hunter Clary
The best way to enjoy Transporter 2 is to first see the original Transporter, which sets up the mythic, rule-obsessed hero and his preposterous but supremely enjoyable stunts and establishes the film's martial arts choreography.
Frank Martin (Jason Statham, The Italian Job) will transport anything, no questions asked, cash on delivery. He's a stickler for rules: "Don't get involved. No names. No changes." Martin commands mega-bucks not just because he has the most spotless car on the planet, but because he also used to be a member of Her Majesty's elite Special Air Service. No flirty James Bond, though. Martin is one of those guys who proves that restraint is the most irresistible aphrodisiac.
His previous car, a gleaming black BMW, got blown to bits back in Nice, France, in the first Transporter outing. When Martin relocates to Miami, Fla., he acquires a souped-up Audi WD-12. It's also black, fitted with a nifty remote license-plate changer and a small armory in the glove compartment. That Audi flies -- literally -- and careens, screeches, zooms, turns on a dime, reverses in a millisecond. All with nary even one bug splatter.
The film's dopey plot follows a fashionable but nasty Italian assassin, Gianni (Allesandro Gossman), whose career goal is to imitate Alan Rickman in Die Hard. Gianni has been hired by a faceless (and thus ho-hum) Colombian drug cartel that wants to send an apocalyptic revenge message to the free world. The nefarious plan involves kidnapping the son of the annoying American anti-drug czar and injecting the child (lovable Hunter Clary) with a deadly virus that, in four hours, will infect Dad and everyone he comes in contact with at an international drug crime-fighters conference.
Being the boy's driver for a month has made Martin extremely fond of him -- and his unhappy mother (Amber Valletta, Hitch). When the child is snatched, Martin pulls out all stops to rescue him, facing an endless assortment of bad guys -- and one gal -- at every turn.
The femme meanie is a bizarre creature conjured by men who've become brain dead from playing too many video games. Lola (Kate Nauta) is the under-dressed gunslinger dominating the movie's posters -- she's long-stemmed and anorexic, shoots big guns with both hands and runs around in her bra and garter belt. Lola is psychotic, not sexy.
Statham, on the other hand, is quite sexy, even if he has hardly any hair and keeps most of his clothes on. In real life he'd be a tyrannical neat freak, but onscreen he's an alpha-male hero with a heart. Adding to Statham's affability is his curious relationship with Gallic detective Tarconi (Francois Berleand), who epitomizes all things French, thus providing the amusing moments in the film. Alas, Tarconi's presence is all too fleeting, the movie's most serious disappointment.
Statham does all his own stunts, some kind of martial arts melange in which he performs magnificent high kicks (never, ever getting a tear in his slacks) and makes a lot of interesting weapon choices -- whatever's at hand, actually: ladders, water hoses, paint cans, watermelons, you name it.
Unlike other martial arts heroes, Martin judiciously tries to avoid killing most of his enemies -- he aims to put them out of action in some bloodless way, which makes all his fight scenes look like ballets rather than massacres. Psychologists may have concerns about that, but the ticket-buying public will be happy to get its money's worth. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, sexual content, partial nudity and brief language.
-- reviewed by Marci Miller