Jason Statham and Robert Knepper star in TRANSPORTER 3, directed by Olivier Megaton for Lions Gate Films.

Transporter 3 (2008, Olivier Megaton)

When an action movie franchise hits the third one (X-Men, Lethal Weapon), they generally know what they’re doing and who they’re making the movie for and instead of producing some wonted exercise, members of this illustrious group of sequels are assured, affable and a lot of fun. The Transporter series is a constant disappointment, since it puts Jason Statham’s likability above his acting ability–so it’s a real surprise to see it join that group.

The film opens with him and sidekick François Berléand fishing together (it’s one of those almost meta moments in fiction, like the Star Trek trio camping) and, even with the lousy editing, it’s lovely. Olivier Megaton’s got some good composition and he can handle a conversation, but the editing is just atrocious–lots of speeding up and slowing down–the fight scenes with Statham are boring. In some ways, it’s a terrible use of Panavision.

Luc Besson, co-writing again, finally gets to put his romance angle in one of the Transporter entries significantly, with love interest Natalya Rudakova. Like most of Besson’s love interests, the age difference between her and her lover is questionable (though not as much as The Professional). But Rudakova turns out to be a real find. She plays the role like an established Russian actress doing her first English language role and she’s not. It’s her first (and, unfortunately, only) film.

Berléand’s great as always, Jeroen Krabbé’s cashing a paycheck, Robert Knepper isn’t a terrible villain.

It’s good stuff.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Olivier Megaton; written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen; director of photography, Giovanni Fiore Coltellacci; edited by Camille Delamarre and Carlo Rizzo; music by Alexandre Azari; production designer, Patrick Durand; produced by Besson and Steve Chasman; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Jason Statham (Frank Martin), Natalya Rudakova (Valentina), François Berléand (Inspector Tarconi), Robert Knepper (Johnson), Jeroen Krabbé (Leonid Vasilev) and Timo Dierkes (Otto).

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