As the economy stalls, we can count on Jason Statham to shake some action, like a one-man stimulus package for struggling B-movie subgenres. After a brief flirtation with cred earlier this year in The Bank Job, the bald and burly Statham returned to his dumb action-flick wheelhouse, first with the leaden Death Race and now with the delightfully silly Transporter 3. The third chapter of a franchise nobody's clamoring for (yet stubbornly refuses to die) is spinning its tires — but in some small ways it's an upgrade compared to its numbingly stupid predecessor. While the dialogue's still stilted and the plotlines are still murky, the stunt work has been scaled back to merely improbable from the physics-defying, intelligence-insulting nadir reached in the last installment.
Here Statham's former British SAS badass-turned-topflight underground courier Frank Martin. He's kicking back at his French villa with his fishing bud (Francois Bereland) when an unannounced visitor literally crashes his pad, driving right through the expensive stonework. Soon Frank's forcibly enlisted in a trans-Europe caper involving the mob, government kickbacks, toxic waste and a politician's daughter named Vallentina, a quirky Ukrainian beauty who might chase her vodka with shots of freckle juice. Newcomer Natayla Rudakova is surely a shark-jumping flashpoint for fans; her borscht-thick brogue and Yoda-like cadence ("What means this doom and gloom?") is as aggravating to audience members as it is to Frank. The more forgiving bad movie lovers will enjoy her weird sexiness and savor her awkward delivery of blissfully stupid dialogue, such as "What does looking good have to do wiss dying?" Meanwhile, Statham mostly saves his commentary for those many moments after he has inevitably removed his pressed shirt long enough to dismantle a cluster of thugs and flex his taut pecs. He plays it straight, but with a gleam and occasional smirk, and with the new Bond in a permanent paranoid funk, it's a comfort to find a hero who enjoys his work.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.