Nothing in cinema this week is more important than Transporter 3. It’s been a long time since a new movie has been so spiritually and aesthetically exhilarating. Producer Luc Besson, director Olivier Megaton and star Jason Statham work at the top of their imagination and abilities—not like they’re completing a formulaic sequel but reinventing the action movie genre.
The chase sequence, the fight scene, the love scene are performed with a rare skill that analyzes the visual, generic components while snapping them into place with new rhythm. Every sequence whirls like ingenious choreography. It tells a story—in movement—of Transporter Jack Martin (Statham) forced to escort a Ukrainian politician’s daughter Valentina (freckly Natalya Rudakova) across Europe while dragged (kicking and flying) out of his steely macho isolation. (No star runs in character better than Statham, whose agile body is superbly sculpted while his voice remains tender—despite gruff edges).
Transporter 3 affords viewers a similar romantic evolution. For all the violent movie conventions we endure and standard CGI imagery with that stale, storyboarded look, Besson, Megaton and Statham make action movies exciting again. Watching Martin outmaneuver a ruthless Trump-quoting businessman (Robert Knepper) isn’t “dark”; it’s a joyous good vs. evil exposition. Aficionados will appreciate the humor of a goon’s “Are you the smart one?” retort. Snobs will misunderstand the progress before their eyes. When Megaton makes Godardian symbolism of Martin’s hand retrieving a key from Valentina’s, Transporter 3 evinces greater art than Van Sant’s studied poetic effects.
The old thrill-ride phrase is obsolete, it denotes passive movie watching; Transporter 3 is a thrill drive. It demands audiences intellectually appreciate its construction. Sequences where Statham cycles down a rail across a sweatshop work table, plays piano with a man’s head and drives a car kitty-corner between trucks are all applause worthy. These intricately edited movie jousts aren’t about speed but narrative, capturing instantaneous action, rescuing a moment and imprinting it. Movement is given comic-book efficacy and cubist energy. It’s true visual wit. These are not stunts; they’re objets d’art. Somewhere, Buster Keaton is smiling and Spielberg should take notes.
Directed by Olivier Megaton, Running Time: 100 min.
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