by Mark Savlov & r & Transporter 2 & r & While some might complain that this sequel to the Luc Besson-scripted, Cory Yuen-helmed 2002 smash sleeper is simply too outrageous to believe, that sounds uncomfortably close to sending your bowl of panang back to the Thai chef because it's too damn spicy. Transporter 2 is vapid, lunatic fun: all action, all the time, with no pauses to catch your breath, or, more significantly, to figure out what's going on.
Having dispensed entirely with even the closest semblance of reality, Jason Statham's ex-Special Forces driver-for-hire Frank Martin is twice daily ferrying the precocious offspring of Matthew Modine's high-level DEA official to a Miami Beach Montessori school. When the tyke is kidnapped by Colombian crime lord Gianni (Alessandro Gassman) and his improbably leggy moll Lola (supermodel/singer Kate Nauta) as part of an elaborate, international hit on the global drug-enforcement community, the ever-loyal Frank lets loose an equally elaborate series of pursuits, all while keeping his trademark black suit as immaculate as James Bond's martini.
For all its gimmicky mayhem, Transporter 2 is a marked improvement over the original, setting aside such yawn-inducing cinematic standbys as a romantic interest (here the driver loves only his car, an Audi A8 L W12, replacing The Transporter's BMW 645Ci convertible) as well as even nominal brushes with reality (as when Frank disables an under-the-chassis bomb by rocketing his ride off a pier and catching a glancing blow across his undercarriage from a crane's winch-hook while spiraling through the very wild blue yonder). Go, speed, go!
Still, those who like their action to abide by the laws of physics will find the CGI-assisted set-pieces of stunt director Corey Yuen (who helmed the original film) outlandish and wholly unbelievable. There comes a point when Frank the Driver transforms into a Nietzschean Frank the & uuml;bermensch, stolidly chasing down his quarry (including Snatch co-star Jason Flemyng as an unhinged Russian thug) as all around him dissolves into tightly edited operatic chaos. Able to dodge bullets with a single bound, fly and leap over tall buildings (in his Audi, natch) while remaining as stiff-upper-lipped as a freshly Blitzed Brit, taciturn and stoic to the core, Frank is as close to the robotic Terminator as you can come without actually being mechanized.
Statham long ago mastered the art of cool, but here he's downright frozen. You can tell this guy means business by the contents of his refrigerator: exactly three Heinekens, straight, no chaser, unless you count the honey squeezy-bear sitting beside them. Frank's seeming imperviousness to peril, unfortunately, means that midway through Transporter 2, you begin to wonder what all the hubbub's about. After all, if the hero has no fatal flaw, no Achilles' heel, then what's the point? Apart from cutting a stylishly bloody swath across the screen and looking flash as the Clash while pummeling the less sartorially inclined into so much hamburger, there's not much to this knight errant, as least as far as I can discern. Poor Frank doesn't even get the girl -- one's married, and the other, the psychopathic Lola, is torn between her trigger finger and the Tae Bo-happy Gianni.
The only glimmer of actual characterization in the entire film comes -- all too briefly -- from Frank's old boss Inspector Tarconi (Francois Berl & eacute;and), who arrives in Miami on vacation and quickly finds himself chastising the local police for their pathetic lack of culinary talents. Forget the driver, already. I'd rather watch Le Chef.
The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.