Jason Statham has turned himself into quite the Hollywood hunk. Just seven short years ago, he made his professional debut in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Eventually, he graduated from the Guy Ritchie school of acting and moved on to Steven Segal-esque stardom, playing various characters that have one thing in common: they can drive a car better than anyone else in the damn world.
The original Transporter featured Statham, a BMW and an unbelievable array of spectacular action sequences and mind-blowing stunts. Despite not having a real plot, the flick managed to clear $25 million at the box office and another third of that in rentals. Based on those rather anemic numbers, Statham signed back on to take a second shot at launching his Frank Martin character into action infamy.
In this film, Martin takes a job filling in as a bodyguard and driver for a very likable little lad named Jack. The boy eventually gets kidnapped via a rather tricky ruse put on by the bad guys and Frank has to go get him back. Basically, it’s the same story as that of the original film, except that Frank doesn’t get to hook up with the victim at the end.
There still isn’t much real background development or likable characters to fall back on. Martin and the boy have a nice little relationship, but everything else is pretty textbook. It is abundantly clear, however, that character development isn’t what drives The Transporter series; it’s awe-inspiring yet staggeringly impossible action.
The stunts and special effects actually make the film quite enjoyable when taken at their humorous, over-the-top face value. There is one point when it seems that Statham no longer guides his car off jumps, but can actually control it in the air as he disposes of a bomb on the undercarriage of his car in a most ingenious way. A mortal citizen probably couldn’t live through most of these stunts in a Sherman Tank, but Statham’s Audi proves that it’s amazing what four-wheel drive cars are capable of.
One pleasant surprise in The Transporter 2 is an occasional plot twist. Just when the audience starts to settle in for the typical below average action movie, the writers throw a kink in the story. It is unexpected for the most part and keeps the movie flowing. Another big step up this time is the supporting cast. Matthew Modine does a great job of being a sniveling politician, career thug Keith David gives the film some swagger and Amber Valletta (Hitch) is a genuinely sympathetic girl-next-door type.
All in all, Transporter 2 is an improvement over the original. The spectacle is worth the ticket price alone, as this movie may have just set the new standard for car chase movies. Saying Transporter 2 is just an action movie is like saying the Super Bowl is just a football game.