More high-octane thrills in ‘Transporter 2’ | TahoeDailyTribune.com

More high-octane thrills in ‘Transporter 2’

Howie Nave

Frank Martin (Jason Statham) tries to save the lives of two boys who are kidnapped and injected with a potentially fatal virus in "Transporter 2."

Handsome Rob is back! OK, so that was a different movie (“The Italian Job”) – but the movie that transported Jason Statham from excellent driver is back in a sequel to 2002’s “The Transporter.” That movie put him on the map (and road), as this dry, very charismatic character in the form of Frank Martin. In “Transporter,” with Frank behind the wheel, the movie went from “Wow” to “Whoa!” in 60 seconds.

Here, in “Transporter 2,” the movie stalls a bit. What started out in the south of France (in “Transporter”) now takes place in Miami, and we get a bunch of tongue-tied circumstances that need a cable jump. Still, if you want to leave your brain in neutral without having to focus too much, then this is a good movie for you to watch.

Statham reprises his role as the premiere driver-for-hire who personally delivers anything with no questions asked. Period. No muss, no fuss. He’s the ultimate in “cool” under stress. The sequel starts out promisingly enough, reminding us in the opening scenes just how cool, calm and collected Frank is. The thing that makes Frank one of the more interesting characters is his ability to foresee trouble ahead like a cynical fortuneteller, expecting the worst from somebody even before they make their move. Think of him as the subtle action hero whose thoughts are almost better planned out than his action sequences. Timing again always plays a key factor to his moves. And I miss that this time around. Director Louis Leterrier must have been thinking that the viewer’s attention span would sputter in low gear, so he boosts the octane with some over-the-top action scenes to keep us revved. Not necessary.

This time out, Frank is a very well paid chauffeur transporting human cargo in the form of 6-year-old Jack Billings (Hunter Clary). His parents are played by Matthew Modine and Amber Valletta. Things look promising, once we realize that Frank has a fatherly bond with the kid, since his own parents suffered a strained relationship yet remained together for their son. It’s just a matter of time before fate will step in and give us a roller-coaster ride of a movie once Jack gets kidnapped. Like the first movie, his cargo is of the human variety, and Frank gets a conscience, so even though he has transported some seedy types in the past, he does have a soul.

Matthew Modine has always been an underrated actor who excels in whatever role he is asked to portray. Here he plays anti-drug czar Jefferson Billings. He is good in the role but I’m still adjusting to seeing him play these new, father-figure roles.

“Transporter 2” still has the fancy driving that made the first one memorable, and I guess once you have set the standard, the trick is to out-do yourself. So, much like a John Woo film where martial arts is choreographed into a form of surreal cinema, so are the gravity-defying scenes that has Frank and his car dancing as one, dodging death at every turn where you would least expect it.

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In today’s oversensitive, “I will sue you for not warning me” society, I am surprised the filmmakers didn’t run a “Don’t try this at home” at the bottom of the screen, because some moron out there will probably try this on the freeway! Taking an Audi A8 to new heights (literally), Frank is more than a match for the baddies in this film. I will say that their diabolical scheme has been done before – injecting a deadly virus into the body of the unsuspecting victim and then holding the secret antidote at bay until a handsome monetary amount is brokered, thereby giving the victim his life back in exchange, to finish this movie. Why is it that all serums are held in these high school chemistry beakers when a simple needle would easily have been sufficient? For dramatic purposes? Apparently so. Regardless, the villains are adequate enough with Kate Nauta, Jason Flemyng and Alessandro Gassman living up to their reputation as being very dysfunctional.

One of the film’s highlights is bringing back French police inspector Tarconi (Francois Berleand), who, like in the first outing, admires Frank deep down inside, even though he can’t express it outwardly to his colleagues because, technically, Frank has broken more laws than the number of words exceeding two syllables Paris Hilton can pronounce.

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv Comedy Club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada. He co-hosts the morning show on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8 and weekends on KMTN television here in South Lake Tahoe.

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