Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jason Statham, Amber Valletta, Katie Nauta, Alessandro Gassman, Matthew Modine
Written by: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
MPAA Rating: PG-13 intense sequences of violent action, sexual content, partial nudity and brief language
Running Time: 88
Date: 08/03/2005

Transporter 2 (2005)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Speedy Delivery

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

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When it opened in 2002, the low-profile action movie The Transporter didn't attract much attention. But it built a large word-of-mouth following and eventually did bonanza business on DVD (last week Fox Home Video re-released it in a new "Special Delivery" edition). This type of film always leads to a sequel, and inevitably, the sequel is bigger, more expensive and accompanied by monstrous hype.

Blessedly, Transporter 2 very simply copies the formula that worked the first time. It's a lean, perfectly paced, unpretentious good time; it's what popcorn movies ought to be.

Jason Statham returns as British title character Frank Martin, now Statham's signature, stoic role, despite his nervy, verbally astute performances in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Frank's job is simple; he transports objects or people from one place to another. He has an extremely cool car, an equally cool black suit and a decidedly cool demeanor. If someone picks a fight with him, he'd rather remove his jacket than get flustered.

In Transporter 2, Frank has been hired to drive an important drug czar's son back and forth from school. The boy's lonely mother (Amber Valletta) is separated from her jerk of a husband (Matthew Modine), and Frank has taken a liking to both her and the boy (Hunter Clary).

Unfortunately, an evil Jean-Claude Van Damme look-alike (Alessandro Gassman) and his slinky, serrated blonde girlfriend (Katie Nauta) kidnap the child, implicating Frank in the process.

The subsequent twists never really adhere to logic, but the set pieces more than make up for them. In one amazing scene, Frank defeats a gang of charging thugs with a firehose, and in another he detaches a bomb from the bottom of his moving car. But the piece-de-resistance fight scene takes place in an unmanned plane hurtling through the stratosphere.

Director Louis Leterrier, who once worked odd jobs on other Luc Besson productions and made his directorial debut earlier this year with the equally good Unleashed, has an innate talent for sturdy, expert action films. While he's no John Woo, he knows how to quickly and succinctly establish emotional connections with his characters, his pulse-pounding sequences lean toward clarity, and he keeps up an exhilarating speed without letting things get tiresome.

Best of all, he knows how to end it, and we're out the door before our smiles can fade.

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