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The Transporter

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After a chase through the streets of Paris, in which he evades a choreographed fleet of police cars down alleyways and against traffic, The Transporter's unflappable hero and his human cargo finally seem to have been cornered on an overpass. Calmly eyeing the traffic below, he revs up his engine and bursts over the bridge, timing the jump so he effectively parallel-parks his BMW between two other vehicles on the upper deck of a car transporter. Much like the similarly impervious Vin Diesel outpacing an avalanche on a snowboard in XXX, the stunt is amazing, impossible, and curiously unaffecting, betraying the laws of physics just enough to remove the thrill of real danger. Cut from a granite block, with a personality to match his form, Jason Statham represents the new breed of action hero, an icy superman with fists of fury, pinpoint accuracy with firearms, and an aversion to anything resembling human emotion. An iconic hunk of clay like Diesel—who seems like the natural successor to The Man With No Name—can at least make up in star charisma what he lacks in vulnerability. But Statham is all grim stares and monotone line-readings, carrying the role like an ordinary movie henchman who has mistakenly been promoted above his rank. Written by Eurotrash auteur Luc Besson, The Transporter basically recycles the premise of Besson's 1994 thriller The Professional, centering on an amoral hired gun who shuts off his conscience to do the bidding of a crime syndicate. Working under his homemade version of the samurai code, Statham transports packages from scumbag A to scumbag B under a strict set of rules: Never change the deal, never use names, and never open the package. But a routine mission goes awry when he breaks the third rule and out pops Qi Shu, a slight and pitiable captive who causes Statham to question his loyalties, which in turn brings down the wrath of a well-armed gang of thugs. Predictably, Shu gradually thaws the icy Statham, and the two dodge their attackers with minimal plotting and maximal gunplay, martial arts, and explosions. Besson entrusts the action to prolific Hong Kong director Corey Yuen, whose résumé includes several Jet Li vehicles; Yuen's sleek choreography keeps the action moving, even when it lacks inspiration. If anything, The Transporter isn't ludicrous enough; only one scene (a hand-to-hand showdown in the middle of an oil slick) reaches the inspired, delirious comic heights of the best Hong Kong movies. The rest remains cued to the cool, unaffected demeanor of its star, who seems determined to keep everyone in his vicinity from having a good time.