Transporter 3 (US - BD)
Gabe Powers takes out the Euro-trash with super tough guy Jason Statham...
Frank Martin, transporter of persons and objects of interest, is back on the job, even though he would really rather be fishing (his other car is a fishing boat). Frank once again finds himself tied up in a quagmire of a transport, this time with a neat little bracelet that will blow him up if he gets more than one hundred yards away from his car. Next to him is a Ukrainian girl with similar jewellery, and a very skimpy skirt, and out the window are bad guys gunning for his hide. You know, the usual.
The worst thing that happened to the Transporter series was other movies that pushed over-the-top action into the full-on R rated realm. The Bourne series was an answer to the increasingly unrealistic Bond series, then the Transporter series was the answer to how unrealistic the Bond movies could become. 007 went the Bourne rout, which left the Transporter films to fill the ridiculous spy-type-man slot. The second film in the series did not disappoint with its medically impossible plot points, and one of the funniest bomb removal scenes in recent history, but even in its ‘unrated’ form the film wasn’t exactly hard R material.
Then came Running Scared, Shoot ‘Em Up, and most importantly Crank, which stared The Transporter’s leading man, Jason Statham. These films were every bit as preposterous as the Transporter series, and feature the extra added fun of full frontal nudity, graphic bloodshed, and some very naughty language. Without going the distance and taking the R rating, Transporter 3 enters the race minus a leg, and things don’t really get better from there.
With the director of parts one and two, Louis Leterrier, chasing the Incredible Hulk across South America, producer/writer Luc Besson has gone to another ‘exciting young director’—Olivier Megaton, who directed the equally middling Asia Argento vehicle Red Siren. Megatron, I’m sorry, Megaton, has a good handle on the look of the film, and the ins and outs of action (he cuts quick, but not too quickly, and he has a good understanding of geography), but his dramatic scenes cannot overcome Besson’s repetitive script. This time the over-the-toppitude has been cranked down a hair as well. The car chases and fight scenes are appropriately intense, but don’t cross the line into pure insanity save two very unrealistic moments, one where Frank gets his car on two wheels to get between two semi trucks, and another which would constitute a pretty big spoiler.
But beyond repetitive scripts that make absolutely no sense, and middling action set-ups, my biggest disappointment concerns what I see as an unfortunate character change. The most interesting thing about the Transporter series has nothing to do with over-the-top action, and everything to do with its implications of the main character’s sexual orientation. The first film features several overtly homoerotic action scenes, and the second film features direct dialogue hints at the fact that Frank Martin may be gay. The fact that these hints weren’t entirely overt was what made the possibility so interesting, as one would assume a mainstream gay action hero would flaunt his homosexuality. Unfortunately, the closest we get this time around to an oiled up and slippery man on man fight is an amusing bit where Statham uses his clothing to fight off attackers, effectively doing a kung-fu strip show, which he’s later forced to recreate. This scene is just as much for the straight ladies as it is for the gay men.
Minor spoilers follow.
Unfortunately, for episode three, the Besson and company write the gay right out of the character. Frank hooks up with Valentina, then holds her gently as she pours her heart out too him. The hook-up comes after a whole lot of coaxing (she even accuses him of being ‘the gay’), but it’s still a disappointing development, especially considering how annoying Valentina is as a character (sure, she’s super hot, but Frank’s gotta meet super hot girls that aren’t annoying all the time). Beyond my accusations of sexual orientation, which are backed up to some degree by other critics, and the director of the previous films, the love story angle sort of neuters the character, and makes him even more of a cheap James Bond knock-off. Even if Frank wasn’t actually gay, just chaste, this character turn makes him a more boring character, and that much more interchangeable with Statham’s other characters.
Stylistically Transporter 3 sits somewhere between the super slick first film, and the super stylized second film. The look is unmistakably modern, including high contrast, and duelling super-saturated and unsaturated colour schemes. This 1080p hi-def transfer is clear of any obvious errors, save a few unavoidable colour inconsistencies in lower lighting. The saturated colours are solid without bleeding, and work well as highlights (such as Natalya Rudakova’s bright orange hair and freckles, which stand out harshly against her pale skin). The details are very sharp, from close-up facial details and hair, to wider shots of asphalt roads and rolling ocean waves. Black and white levels are pushed to the perfect extremes, but aren’t so contrasting that things appear unrealistic or over-stylized. The print is pretty much spotless concerning artefacts (which are pretty obvious on the DVD release, especially during Valentina’s red flashback), and is even clear of heavy grain.
Transporter 3 runs on a high octane 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, with full bodied effects, lots of directional play, and generally high, if not a little exaggerated, fidelity. The dialogue is centred and clear, even over the loud music and sound effects. The unmotivated and over-revved sound effects are all whippy and zippy, with sturdy LFE, and enough surround style to make audiophiles happy. The film’s score matches the scores of the pervious film, in that the same composer wrote it, but different in its scope. It sounds more like a Jerry Bruckheimer movie than a Luc Besson movie. Strangely too, the score audio rarely enters the centre channel. The pop and dance tracks are well placed in the mix, and very aggressive on the track (I had to turn down the bass, myself). There’s even some clever use of volume control when it’s revealed that the dance track during the big car chase is actually coming out of Frank’s stereo, and is turned down when he has to make a phone call. There was one split second of audio drop out at about the forty-two minute mark on my disc, but otherwise this was an error free track.
A commentary with director Oliver Megaton starts our average extras. Megaton has a thick French accent, but is generally understandable. He runs through the usual pre-production woes (apparently the writers’ and actors’ strikes had an effect on things), the process of following up Leterrier’s films, trying to make the film stand on its own, shooting action, and so on and so forth. Megaton’s attention is very linear, and though pretty technical, the track runs like a good story. Not surprisingly Megaton doesn’t cover the gay angle, and is all but entirely silent during the strip tease and sex scenes.
‘Special Delivery: Transporters in the Real World’ is a mixed discussion with law enforcement types, who explain the reality of such a character in our world, including Secret Service type movement, and military stuff. There are scenes from the film thrown in the mix, but the piece isn’t an EPK, which is a nice change of pace for these less inspired Lionsgate extras. The featurette runs a total of fourteen minutes, and is followed by a more traditional making-of featurette, which runs about sixteen minutes. This is a little more in-depth than I initially expected, including raw footage of early pre-production, including training and storyboards, but overall things come down to more hype machine interviews, and exciting footage from the film.
The disc is wrapped up with a three minute storyboard to screen comparison, with commentary from Megaton, a two and a half minute before and after visual effects glance, also with Megaton commentary, a two minute look at the set construction, again, with Megaton commentary, and the original theatrical trailer, along with other Lionsgate new release trailers.
Transporter 3 looks really nice, director Oliver Megaton has a slick style, and a good handle on understandable action. The action itself isn’t as much fun as the entirely ridiculous action found in the second film, and more importantly it pales in comparison to recent R rated action like Shoot ‘Em Up and Crank. The plot is no better or worse than the rest of the films in the series, meaning it will insult your intelligence, but this isn’t really a problem. Most sadly the main character has been de-gayed for this outing. The disc follows the Lionsgate major release model, featuring top end A/V, but relatively dry and minimal extras.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 10th March 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English, DTS 5.1 French
Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish
Extras: Director Commentary, 'Special Delivery: Transporters in the Real World', Storyboards, Production Design, Special FX, 'Making-of Trasnporter 3', MoLog, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Oliver Megaton
Cast: Jason Statham, Robert Knepper, Katia Tchenko, Natalya Rudakova, François Berléand
Length: 104 minutes
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