Entrusted with the transportation of a government official's (Matthew Modine) child, mercenary-turned-driver Frank Martin (Jason Statham) finds himself caught up in the family's troubles, which goes against his every instinct. On a routine trip to the pediatrician, Frank and the kid are confronted by kidnappers (including a scene-stealing Jason Flemyng), who manage to inject the boy with a deadly virus, and frame Frank for the kidnapping in the process. Out to retrieve the child, find the antidote, and clear his name, Frank begins to scour the Miami landscape to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice the only way he can: through massive amounts of ass kicking.
The 2002 sleeper hit "The Transporter" caught some attention with its slight tendency toward lunacy, tight fight choreography, and appealing direction by Corey Yuen. "Transporter" also gave rise to actor Jason Statham, who utilized his grizzled charms to great effect. Now back with a sequel, director Louis Leterrier ("Unleashed") and his boss Luc Besson (who produces and co-writes) have upped the ante substantially for this new adventure. Heavens, if you thought the original film was a lot to swallow, I would suggest an extra dose of suspension-of-disbelief pills before you take "Transporter 2" (IMDb listing) on.
Besson and his production team teetered on the edge of silliness with "Transporter," but that was part of the fun. A much needed loosening up of the action genre (without spilling into parody), the original film was immensely convoluted, and just as enjoyable, delivering on lean PG-13 thrills in a unique way, conveying Besson's glee in getting away with such outlandish action sequences. For the sequel, Besson has done away with the teasing, and he plunges straight into absurdity. "Transporter 2" is a full-out cartoon, almost touching James Bondian heights with its collection of wildly improbable stunts and outrageous slapfights. Each new scene is crazier than the last, which is why the sequel is a marked improvement over the original. Leterrier isn't shy about letting his film go bonkers, never stopping it for logic purposes, instead leaning into the fattening fun, and enjoying the bizarre theatrics that Besson has lined up for him.
And Besson has let his imagination rocket to outer space this time around. The highlight of "Transporter" was an oil fight between Frank and his enemies, in which the participants slid around the floor searching for the kill. In "Transporter 2," an oil fight seems like kitten play, so Besson takes Frank on an action film set-piece odyssey that features him on a jet ski vs. school bus chase, becoming a lethal weapon with a fire hose, and engaging in a zero-G fight aboard a plummeting airplane. Couple that with amazing car stunts that have Frank flying and twisting through the air with alarming ease, and "Transporter 2" wins the 2005 award for most ludicrous production of the year. However, it's hard to deny the European energy the film creates, and the way Statham is coolly magnetic in the middle of all the chaos. Sure, Leterrier goes a bit too far with the editing at times, and oddly, for a film of this budget, the film features dreadful CGI, but the daredevil spirit of the script is infectious. Not to mention, Frenchman Besson rarely falls prey to the ugly crutches of multiple explosions and endless glass-breaking that always ruin American productions.
Besson also earns extra points for introducing model Kate Nauta to the big screen. A punky blonde with legs as long as city blocks, Nauta fits the role of assassin Lola like a glove, adding a perfect unnerving sexual element in the middle of all the fisticuffs. Armed with handheld WMDs and clad at all times in lingerie, Nauta cuts quite a figure in "Transporter 2" and does a grand job stealing attention away from Statham.
I'll say it again: "Transporter 2" is one goofy bastard of a film. Even for fans of the original movie, it'll be hard to shut off the brain and enjoy the ride. However, if you can make the leap alongside Besson's limitless imagination, this sequel tops the original, and opens itself to wonderful possibilities for a third installment.
Filmfodder Grade: B+