Making blockbusters by the numbers doesn't always add up. In Jet Li's garlic-flavoured martial-arts fest Kiss Of The Dragon, the maths went something like this: Jet Li + Paris + Luc Besson = fun no-brainer. In The Transporter, the equation's slightly different: Jason Statham + Luc Besson + Jet Li = dumb no-brainer.
Jason Lock, Stock... Statham plays Frank Martin, a Special Forces veteran turned freelancer who lives a life of crime-funded luxury in the south of France. Transporting anything for the right price, Martin lives by three rules: never change the deal, never exchange names, never look in the package. (We know this because he tells us, over and over again, exactly what his three rules are.) But when he's asked to courier a sports bag containing the beautiful Lai (Shu Qi) he breaks all three commandments, falls for the babe and has to fight off the bad guys in order to rescue a container full of Chinese immigrants. Simple.
Actually, way too simple. Never anything more than a dumb-and-dumber actioner, The Transporter's catalogue of ludicrous dialogue and ridiculous plotting is painful to watch. Luc Besson's script only escaped the slush pile because... well, it's Luc Besson. Who also happens to be the producer. Now if only it was scribbled with a nod and a wink, then it could at least have been enjoyably trashy. Instead it seems that everyone involved in The Transporter has undergone an irony bypass.
Still, credit where credit's due. No one would have thought that lunk-headed Statham would ever make the grade as a stir-fried action man, but the London boy has those Hong Kong moves down perfectly. (It helps that director Cory Yuen was martial-arts choreographer on The One and Kiss Of The Dragon.) Fighting with everything from jumpers to oil slicks, Statham's graceful dance-of-death moves are guaranteed to knock ageing westerners like Van Damme and Seagal off the shelf into long-overdue retirement. It's just a shame that the shelf we're talking about is the bottom shelf in the video shop.