In the first Transporter movie Jason Statham kicked six bad guys in the head whilst standing on bicycle pedals to avoid slipping on an oil-slick that had been disgorged around him, before chasing a light aircraft through 3 fields, and then skydiving from a another light aircraft onto the back of a moving articulated lorry. In the second movie he used a wooden door to shield himself from machine gun fire, vaulted through a window onto a conveniently waiting Jet-Ski, lifted the delighted female occupant over his shoulder before giving chase to a bunch of henchman in a van. He then jumped the Jet-Ski from the water through the back of the van before dismounting and punching the bad guys lights out! These thoroughly entertaining though completely ridiculous action sequences have been the series' trademark. And given the style in which this new movie has been marketed you could be forgiven for thinking that you will be getting exactly the same thing with this new instalment.
Surprisingly however, this is actually not the case. And while you're still presented with the requisite scenes of a bunch of thugs surrounding Frank Martin (Statham) and waiting patiently in turn to be booted in the face, there is a genuine attempt here to make an engaging action drama. Drama! Of all things!!
You could still write the plot on the back of a postage stamp: Frank Martin is forced to drive a package from one grid reference to another, disallowed from deviating from his course, opening the package or straying further than 50 feet from the vehicle. If he does, an explosive stashed in his car triggered by a signal from a wrist clamp will vapourize the vehicle and everything inside it. He is further burdened by the addition of a passenger (Ukrainian Babe Natalya Rudakova) as Valentina, the daughter of an East European Environmental Secretary working for the UN. The Diplomat, played by Jeroen Krabbe is being blackmailed by a Toxic Waste Transportation company to allow them to use certain shipping lanes. A selection of Eastern European criminal bastards are employed by the Toxic Waste Company to apply the thumb-screws and do their evil bidding!
The improvement in quality seems mainly due to the replacement of Director from Louis Letterier (having graduated to the direction of The Incredible Hulk) to newcomer director Oliver Megaton. Its also seems likely that Jason Statham's own decision to return may have been based on a desire to ditch the frenetic stupidity and make a decent movie. Oliver Megaton even contributes to the franchise's best moment, as Frank, having been thrown out of his car, desperately tries to remain within 50 feet by stealing a kid's BMX, thrashing it through the middle of a warehouse sweatshop, crashing it through the window, performing a flying kick through the passenger side window and kicking the thief out the other side - all to the tune of Iggy Pop's `Now I Wanna Be Your Dog'!
The fight scenes are also choreographed in a more realistic fashion, seeming more gritty and shot up-close-and-personal. Good support is provided by franchise regular Francois Berleand as French Inspector Tarconi, and Robert Knepper puts in a decent performance as the movie's snarling villain. There is one plot discrepancy however that keeps this picture rated at only 3 stars: Just exactly why does Jason Statham have to drive all the way to Bucharest? Maybe I missed something whilst gawping at Natalya Rudakova, but its appears there is no reason, other than to show-off his new Audi's 0-60 and snog his new girlfriend in some slightly dull Mid-European Countryside. The finale of the picture is suitably action-packed and ridiculous including a fine piece of Audi/moving train interfacing! Oliver Megaton does a very good job considering this is `Transporter 3' and shows genuine potential as to the movies he may make in future. Trust me; based on this evidence, the guy could direct Bond.
Another aspect of this picture that you notice is the running time: at 104 minutes it dwarves the 80 minutes of the first movie, and the 79 minutes of Transporter 2 - another sign that the franchise may be growing up a bit. From the DVD you can expect a brief `making-of' featurette, deleted scenes, possibly a commentary and very likely a car advert for that gorgeous new Audi. At the end of this movie you will also fancy bagging yourself a Ukrainian girlfriend of your own! Natalya Rudakova is a total cutie! That Transporter 3 is a good movie is also strangely uplifting!