Transporter 3


Transporter 3

Jason Statham thought he was doing High School Musical 3.

(Lionsgate) Jason Statham, Robert Knepper, Francois Berleand, Natalya Rudakova, Jeroen Krabbe, Alex Kobold, David Atrakchi. Directed by Oliver Megaton

Transporters may come and transporters may go. The nature of the job is that the turnover is plenty high. One thing’s for certain – you can’t keep a good action hero down.

Frank Martin (Statham) has retired to his beloved French Riviera where he spends most of his time fishing with his friend Inspector Tarconi (Berleand). It’s a good life and Frank doesn’t miss the car chases, the fights with half a dozen thugs or getting shot at from a helicopter. Who wouldn’t?

But his reputation remains and when a colleague botches a job, Frank is forced back into the life by Johnson (Knepper), a mysterious and shady sort who has attached an explosive device to his wrist. Should Frank venture more than 75 feet away from his car, the device will detonate and Frank will be everywhere.

His job is to transport the spoiled young Valentina (Rudakova) from Marseilles to Odessa. As it turns out, she is the kidnapped daughter of the Ukrainian Environmental Minister (Krabbe) who is being pressured by Johnson’s employers to allow toxic waste to be dumped in the Ukraine. Hey, what’s a little more toxic waste to a country which already has Chernobyl?

Frank must use all his skills and break all of his own rules to survive the double dealing, backstabbing Johnson, and it doesn’t hurt that he begins to fall for the lovely Valentina despite her annoying quirks, or perhaps because of them.

This is, strange as it may seem, the highest grossing film of the series which is mystifying to me because it’s such an obvious retread of the first from a plot perspective. The only real twist is the exploding wristband thing, and that’s been done before, only as a necklace in The Running Man and it was far cooler to see someone’s head getting blown off of his neck in my humble opinion.

That said, this is still a Jason Statham movie and Statham is my favorite action star at the moment. When he gets the right material (as he does in The Bank Job and The Italian Job) he has a surprising range. When he doesn’t, he’s still interesting and enigmatic enough to be watchable. Perhaps all of the scripts he should accept from now on should have the word “job” in the title.

A movie like this one lives or dies on its action sequences, and for the most part it delivers. My issue with them is that some of the fight choreography is choppy and doesn’t flow really well like a good fight sequence should. There should be an organic feel to it; Asian stunt coordinators understand this better than anyone, and they could have used one here. I get the distinct impression that the botching of these sequences came in the editing process; a little too much artistic license.

However, the concepts are solid and the driving stunts are particularly thrilling, which is what you want when your lead character is supposed to be one of the best in the business in that regard. I liked the first movie in the franchise, was indifferent towards the second and am the same about this one. It’s disposable entertainment that will be forgotten five minutes after you turn off the TV, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

WHY RENT THIS: Jason Statham.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Some of the fight sequences were a little choppy and the choreography didn’t flow as it should have.

FAMILY VALUES: As you might expect, there is a plethora of violence, but there is also some sexuality and a bit of drug and alcohol use. Definitely for mature audiences only.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Rudakova was a hairdresser with no previous acting experience before producer Luc Besson encountered her on a New York street and urged her to get acting lessons before coming in for an audition, which she did.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s an interesting feature on the real life transportation of people and information by people like Frank Martin, only not as cool or violent.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Quantum of Solace

A Prophet (Un prophete)


A Prophet (Un Prophete)

Cesar is crimelord over all he surveys.

(Sony Classics) Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif, Hichem Yacoubi, Reda Kateb, Jean-Philippe Ricci, Gilles Cohen, Antoine Basler, Leila Bakhti. Directed by Jacques Audiard

Prison is a human cesspool. We put all of our bad apples in one basket and expect every apple we throw in afterwards to somehow come out good. It doesn’t happen that way with apples, nor with people.

Malik El Djebena (Rahim) has been in trouble with the law since he was very young. Now, his crimes (apparently he attacked a police officer although it’s never stated outright) have landed him in an adult prison for the first time, with a six year sentence. He is understandably nervous, being neither an intimidating physical specimen nor a particularly violent person.

He is street smart rather than book-learned. He cannot read and he can barely write much more than signing his own name. The only thing he has going for him is a highly developed survival instinct, something that will serve him particularly well in this prison which is not controlled by the guards or the warden, but by a troll of a man named Cesar Luciani (Arestrup). Cesar is the leader of the Corsican crime faction in the prison, reporting in turn to shadowy people outside of the prison.

Cesar walks with impunity in places other prisoners dare not go. He is surrounded by bodyguards and has a cell phone from which orders come down, and one has; Reyeb, an Arabic criminal who will soon be testifying in court will be housed in the prison until the trial. Cesar needs to make sure that the man doesn’t make it to court.

Unfortunately, Cesar’s tentacles don’t extend far beyond his own immediate world. Reyeb is being housed in a wing where prisoners, including newcomer Malik, are kept “under observation” until it is deemed they are fit to join the general observation, after which he will be moved to the wing where the Muslim prisoners are kept, and where he will be beyond Cesar’s reach.

Cesar knows he must strike swiftly while the prisoner is in the temporary wing, but if he uses one of his men to do the deed, it would likely be traced back to him. When the newcomer shows sexual interest in Malik (who showers in the stall next to him), Cesar realizes he has his solution.

Malik is given no real options; he has never killed before, but he must kill this stranger or else Cesar will kill him. That Cesar will carry out that threat is made very clear to Malik, who is reluctant to cross this particular line. A lieutenant instructs Malik in how to conceal a razor blade in his mouth and how to strike suddenly.

When the time comes, Malik, given a terrible choice, chooses self-preservation. He performs the deed, but botches it; still, he gets away with it because Cesar had the foresight to make sure that the temporary wing was cleared of people when Malik was doing what he was supposed to do.

This act earns Malik protection from the Corsicans and alienation from the Muslims. Malik becomes a quick study, learning the ways of criminal success and develops a little mini-empire of his own, thanks largely to his only friends Ryad (Bencherif) and the gypsy stoner Jordi (Kateb). Furthermore, Malik has visions of Reyeb, visions that give him guidance on what to do, which leads people to wonder if Malik is something of a prophet. Still, it is a brutal world he exists in and the closer Malik gets to Cesar, the more dangerous things become.

This was one of the most acclaimed movies to come out of France last year, winning the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes and sweeping the major categories at the Cesars, France’s version of the Oscars. Speaking of the Oscars, it was nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category, losing out to Argentina’s The Secret in Their Eyes.

This is a stark, grey movie with little color; the bleakness of the prison surroundings prevents that and that’s mostly where this movie takes place. It is characterized by some startling performances, particularly Arestrup as Luciani. His eyes are cold, reptilian but filled with intelligence. He is a man prone to fits of sudden and brutal violence, but has enough self-discipline to keep that rage in check. He has the arrogance of a man who knows he is in absolute control, yet is so unprepossessing physically that you might think him the prison librarian.

Rahim plays Malik as a bit of a cipher. Malik rarely displays much of what he’s feeling or thinking, and while he may be illiterate, he is still a clever man. He realizes that his key to survival is to blend in with every faction and become indispensible to both sides, which he does with a vengeance. He also observes everything he can and winds up learning enough to not only succeed but thrive.

One of my big issues with the movie is that it is almost two and a half hours long – I’m not sure if it’s a mindset endemic to gangster epics, but this is a movie that really didn’t need to be that lengthy, particularly the last twenty minutes. It seemed to me that the points the filmmakers were trying to make could have been made a lot more simply and in a lot less time. Perhaps it’s my American impatience, or the fact that by the end of the movie I reeeeeally had to use the restroom, but I found myself wishing the movie would reach its conclusion, which is a bad place for a movie to be in.

That’s why it’s not getting as high a rating as it probably deserves. Audiard has crafted a gritty and realistic look at French prison life and it isn’t a pretty picture as well you might imagine, but then again it’s not supposed to be. Leo Tolstoy once wrote that you judge a society by how it treats its prisoners, and A Prophet will give you plenty of food for thought.

REASONS TO GO: A gritty look at French prison life; at its best recalls some of the best moments of Coppola and Scorsese.

REASONS TO STAY: Too, too long – the last 20 minutes could have been easily have been condensed into scenes totaling about two.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s some brutal violence including at least one blood-soaked murder, disturbing images and much male nudity along with some scenes of sexuality. This is not for the squeamish and certainly not for the young ones.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Director Audiard met Rahim when the two shared a ride from another film set.

HOME OR THEATER: The claustrophobic atmosphere of prison life is more suitable for the small screen.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Oceans