Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Jason Statham……….Frank Martin
Amber Valletta……….Audrey Billings
Matthew Modine……….Mr. Billings
Hunter Clary……….Jack Billings
George Kapetan……….Dr. Sonovitch
Gregg Davis……….Techie at Billings
The last decade has been good for action movies but bad for action stars, it seems. Once known for filling the theatres on a regular basis, stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone have stopped being the box office gorillas they once were. Mainstays such as Tom Cruise and Will Smith are still bona fide A-list action stars but are better known for being bankable actors as opposed to being just simple action stars.
And into this suddenly open field have come many applicants to be the next group of action stars, all of who come with identifiable flaws. Vin Diesel, WWE superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Nicholas Cage, Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Keanu Reeves and Cole Hauser (amongst others) have failed to galvanize the same sort of big explosion, big gun, minimal plot world of the action movie behind them on a consistent basis. In between all of the serious thespians (Cage, McConaughey), muscle-bound Arnold imitators (Diesel, Johnson) and marginally talented actors (Hauser, Reeves, Affleck) an Englishman on the rise delivered one of the more intriguing action movies of 2002.
In The Transporter, Jason Statham had modest box office success as Frank Martin, a transporter who winds up being chased by his former employer after discovering what his parcel really was. In a role what was the beginning of his post Lock, Stock and two smoking barrels rise to stardom, Stratham would end up with a scene-stealing role as Handsome Rob in the remake of The Italian Job on top of being thought of by some as perhaps a new sort of action star: a Hong Kong style hero for the Western Hemisphere.
Now with the action-star market parched and in need of a new face Stratham returns in the familiar black suit in the sequel, The Transporter 2. This time around Martin has gone from transporting cargo in his trunk to being the escort of Jack Billings (Hunter Clary). Much like Creasy (Denzel Washington) did for Pita (Dakota Fanning) in Man on Fire, Statham drives his young ward about town until a fateful trip to the doctor leaves Jack in the hands of kidnappers. With a ransom of $2 million on the child’s head and time running out, Frank does the thing he does best: kick asses and take names. From there it’s a blistering combination of Hong Kong style martial arts, car chases, gun fights and ever-escalating action sequences culminating in an over the top grand finale of jaw-dropping proportions. And if there’s one thing to be said about The Transporter 2, it’s the one of the few action movies of 2005 to truly be a great movie.
Statham may not have the chiseled physique of Diesel or The Rock but he has something that Diesel is lacking and that The Rock has yet to truly exploit on the silver screen: presence. And it’s in large supply as Stratham does something that few can do: dominate the screen without saying a word. Statham is able to turn a gesture, a look, into something that dialogue wouldn’t be able to convey.
He has such a unique physical presence that Louis Leterrier doesn’t need to craft dialogue or do anything above and beyond what Stratham is best at. Statham is able to develop his character from the first movie and develop Frank further as well; since we are already familiar with the character, there is no needed time to establish Frank as our hero. However, many films wouldn’t bother to even do more than just keep him the same; Stratham gives him more development to being a fleshed out character, allowing him to let the character arc of Frank evolve a little further. We don’t have any sort of back story on who he is, but Stratham adds little touches to add another side to Frank.
With the little touches making Frank into a better developed hero, there wouldn’t be much of a movie without the requisite action. The action sequences, the bread and butter of the movie, are well-developed and well shot. Leterrier takes advantage of the gorgeous scenery as well as letting every action sequence develop uniquely. There are such a variety of camera shots and quick cuts that as the transition to another action sequence happen it doesn’t become monotonous.
Now normally a movie using minimal plot to move into action sequences could be boring at best and bad at worst, but the action sequences are so well-done and exciting that it makes it worth the while. While many of the stunts and sequences push the edge of the limit of disbelief, everything is so over the top and made into such a spectacle that being over the limit is ok. Anything ordinary just wouldn’t do.