Testosterone-pumping action scenes, cardboard romance, manly banter — what more does a fanboy need, or want? The “Transporter” films polished those ingredients to slick commercial success in two go-rounds of shamelessly schematic simplicity. “Transporter 3” follows much the same road map.
Marseilles-based deliveryman Frank Martin (Jason Statham) will deliver any package anywhere in Europe that can be reached by his supercharged Audi sedan. Once again, he follows three iron-clad rules: no questions, no names, no peeking into the parcel. As before, the film sometimes plays like a stuntman’s demo reel in search of a story, but it’s high-revving excitement. Particularly if you enjoy sensory overload bordering on incoherence.
Frank is a tight-lipped, stoical loner with a chaotic, dangerous profession. This time we see what he does for much-needed relaxation. Not only does he spend afternoons idly fishing with his cop friend Inspector Tarconi (unflappable Francois Berleand), he watches angling on TV at night.
His relaxation is cut short when a car driven by a young protege of Frank’s explodes through the living-room wall. Frank, who had passed along a bothersome job to the courier, is strong-armed into completing his mission. He is to convey sullen Slavic party girl Valentina (Natalya Rudakova, a constellation of freckles orbiting a pair of Mediterranean-blue eyes) and a large bag of unknown contents to the former Eastern bloc. It all has something to do with Ukraine’s environmental protection agency and some polluted sludge that looks as if it was borrowed from “The Toxic Avenger’s” prop room.
More to the point, bad guy Johnson (Robert Knepper of TV’s “Prison Break”) has a really ferocious scowl. To ensure that Frank completes the drop, Johnson fits him and Valentina with wristbands programmed to explode if they venture 75 feet from the car. This presents amusing difficulties when the Audi goes for a swim and Frank must choose between going down with the car or blowing up.
Along the way, Frank breaks every one of his own commandments, and Statham violates the action star’s creed by lightening up a bit. Although the script is littered with patches as rough as the star’s permastubble, it recognizes that Statham’s character is ripe for a little humor.
Valentina is even more cynical than Frank and trumps his man-of-few-words stoicism with bratty silences of her own. Her fatalistic disposition triggers what I believe is the only Dostoyevsky joke ever uttered in a film featuring Uzis and explosive bracelets. Because she’s convinced they’re doomed anyway, Valentina takes outlandish risks, cooing that she wants “to feel the sex” one last time and blackmailing Frank into a striptease.
Getting the hero out of his shirt is a recurring concern of Statham movies. Given that he’s been photographed half naked more often than Matthew McConaughey and 50 Cent combined, this approach to getting him scared shirtless is a welcome novelty.
The trademark fight sequences are carried off with flair and some wit. It’s wanton violence with a wink. Leave it to legendary fight coordinator Corey Yuen to find a way for Frank to beat people up with a grand piano. And the sequence that has Frank chasing his fugitive car on a kid’s banana-seat bike is endearingly absurd. The franchise takes a good turn in “Transporter 3.”
What: “Transporter 3”
Starring: Jason Statham, Natalya Rudakova
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, some sexual content and drug material