David Bordwell’s shot-by-shot analysis of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc reportedly revealed that less than 2% of the cuts from one shot to the next represented genuine matches on action. Brought to you by Luc Besson, Cory Yuen’s The Transporter might have that feat beat. Every action sequence contains so many disorienting edits and so many spatial cheats that it feels like Baz Luhrmann must’ve sneaked into the editing room late one night. Luckily, the film’s plot—at best, a microfiction—and tone are nothing if not tongue-in-cheek. Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is a former military man who now resides in the French Riviera doing lucrative and anonymous business with various lowlifes. He lives by his rules as if his zero-body-fat index depended on them. When he breaks one, naturally the rest of them tumble as a result and he finds himself marked by a group of mobsters with an arsenal that would make Donald Rumsfeld’s current hard-on shrivel up in envy. The crux of the storyline has something to do with smuggling third-world ragamuffins for Lord knows what (basically a replay of Lethal Weapon 4), but with five major action setpieces buttressed by myriad minor ones all packed into a spare 92 minutes, scenarists Besson and Robert Mark Kamen care about the plight of exploited foreigners about as much as, well, Donald Rumsfeld. What really matters here is Statham’s body and the number of ways it can be displayed: in a svelte black suit, in a sunny powder blue polo and rolling around in auto oil like a greased pig. The Transporter is far from queer cinema (the villain’s “true evil” is confirmed when he lasciviously caresses Statham’s hand), but what blue-blooded American movie featuring a Sly or an Arnold would feature an underwater male-male kiss, even if Statham is really only stealing his enemy’s dying breath?
Now here’s one for the "waste of space" files: this Fox DVD comes with the option of an attractive anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen transfer or, on the flip side, a pan & scan nightmare that renders the already difficult-to-grasp action sequences downright abstract. Anyone foolish enough to choose the latter deserves a medal.pinned directly to their head. The widescreen transfer is close to gorgeous, especially in the golden establishing shots of Nice, France. Either side is complimented by a whirling dervish of a 5.1 Dolby Surround mix. The obligatory explosions and bullet ricochets should get your attention. Every now and then it seems like the dialogue struggles against the screeching tires and the spy-tech musical score, but given lines like "I suggest you kill me right now and go screw yourself," that might be an asset and not a liability.
The commentary by Statham and producer Steve Chasman (chosen perhaps because he’s the only crew member involved whose native tongue is English and not because of his skills as an orator) is totally workmanlike and hardly incisive. Though Statham is an amiable blabbermouth when held up against his screen persona, his insight rarely goes any deeper than to explain what Frank Martin must be thinking at any given moment. (After his car explodes, he notes "This is the turning point where he’s dragged into something he never wanted to be in." Fascinating!) In comparison, the 12-minute making-of featurette provides more bang-for-the-buck in far less invested time. Also on deck are three alternate cuts for fight scenes that had to be toned down to avoid an R-rating. The feature (which should appeal mostly to film geeks and bloodthirsty cretins) does give some insight into the craft of film editing. It’s also worth noting that the obligatory theatrical trailer features a shot missing from the film itself featuring Statham deflecting a missile off a silver tea tray.
The Transporter is probably the closest to a Franco experience as its Freedom Fries-eating target audience is likely to get.