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Transporter 3

It’s the End of the Road

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

Frank Martin, the driver-for-hire role first essayed by Jason Statham in 2002’s The Transporter, is back for a third go around in the appropriately, if unimaginatively titled Transporter 3. Written, like the previous films in the franchise, by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Professional, La Femme Nikita) and Robert Mark Kamen and directed by Olivier Megaton, Transporter 3 is a sub-Bond (as in James Bond), formulaic and lackluster effort that will just barely keep action and/or Statham fans entertained.

After a stopover in the United States for Transporter 2, Frank Martin (Jason Statham) has returned to Marseilles, France, apparently to enjoy an early retirement from the driver-for-hire business. When he’s not fishing with one-time antagonist and local police detective, Tarconi (François Berléand), he’s turning down driving gigs from mob bosses and other shady characters. Of course, saying no to the mob entails physical risks, but Frank manages to avoid serious injury (his shirts, however, don’t).

After turning down one gig and suggesting a friend and fellow driver-for-hire, Malcom Manville (David Atrakchi), Frank settles in for the night, only to have Malcolm and his car crash through his living room wall. A bloodied, bruised, and battered Malcolm passes off his cargo, Valentina (Natalya Rudakova), a young, headstrong Ukrainian woman, to Frank before expiring moments later in a fiery explosion.

Malcolm’s former employer, Mr. Johnson (Robert Knepper), and his henchmen kidnap Frank and make him an offer he can’t refuse: drive Valentina to Budapest in two day’s time in exchange for his life. Johnson backs up his threat with an explosive bracelet Frank can’t take off. If Frank walks more than 75-feet away from the car, the bracelet will explode. What Frank doesn’t know is that Valentina is the daughter of the Ukrainian environmental minister, Leonid Vasilev (Jeroen Krabbé).

Johnson and his employers, a toxic waste polluter, are blackmailing Vasilev to sign off on a contract that will allow them to store their waste on Ukrainian soil. Not content to accept his blackmailers at their word, Vasilev sends a security detail after Valentina, leaving Frank, as usual, with little recourse except using his wits, fighting skills, and reflexes behind the wheel to save Valentina and himself.

From the first scene featuring (what else?) a car chase to the end credits 100-long minutes later, it’s clear that Besson, Kamen, and Megaton, making an inauspicious feature-film debut, put the absolute minimum effort into making Transporter 3, mixing generic, undermotivated villains, a storyline ripped from the day before yesterday’s headlines (environmental polluters, really?), an underwritten, soporific romance, awkward performances and clumsy line readings, uninspired, unengaging fight and car chase scenes, and incoherent, quick-cut editing that makes fight choreographer Corey Yuen’s efforts almost impossible to follow.

If there’s any reason to see Transporter 3, it’s due to Jason Statham’s charismatic turn as the taciturn, moralistic mercenary, Frank Martin. There’s an obvious attraction in a character like Martin. He’s almost, but not quite, Bond-like in his abilities and talents. It’s a pity, then, that Besson, Kamen, and Megaton, couldn’t give Martin or Statham a better vehicle for his third outing. Unfortunately for Frank Martin, it’s the end of the road.