A film review by Craig J. Koban
2008, PG-13, 103 mins.
2008, PG-13, 103 mins.
Frank Martin: Jason
Valentina: Natalya Rudakova /
Tarconi: Francois Berleand /
Johnson: Robert Knepper /
I have seen thousands of films in my time and there are certainly times when I felt that some were probably not altogether difficult to write. Action films in particular have always been high on large scale, bullets blazing and explosion-filled spectacle and low on character development and emotional content.
came the genre of “Cinema of Incredulity,” which has essentially
re-wrote all of the existing paradigms of the action film landscape.
know…if you are a virginal reader of my site, then you may be scratching
your head and asking yourself, “What the hell is ‘Cinema of Incredulity’?”
Well, lemmie tell you. It
all started when I saw the second film in the TRANSPORTER trilogy.
These films concern a delightfully suave and cool professional
“transporter” that has a 100% delivery rate.
He never fails. Best
of all, he takes any package (and I do mean any) without questions and
does the job. Her lives by a self-imposed code of ethics, three rules to be
precise: (1) The deal is the deal, (2) No names, and (3) Don’t open the
package. Needless to say,
some of these rules have been broken in the films.
Okay…back to “Cinema of Incredulity.” Now, I was more than willing to give TRANSPORTER 2 a bad review when my friend and former editor of this site wisely surmised that I would be wrong in doing so. He said that the film was simply an “incredible romp of complete and utter incredulity.”
Then I thought – wow! – there is a whole
new genre here, folks, one where the films have a high quotient of
death-defying action and staggering stunts, but they also have a laughably
entertaining and commendable level of self awareness about just how
utterly improbable and outlandish they truly are.
The films of “Cinema of Incredulity” could easily be mocked
with ridicule by movie going philistines, but I think that, oddly enough, these films command more respect
than condemnation for their very
willingness to be stupid and ignore all known earth bound logic.
Outrageousness is the key.
Now, this brings me to TRANSPORTER 3, and I thought that instead of boring you all with yet another basic review and critique of the film, I would use it as a prime example of how to make your very own successful entry in the Cinema of Incredulity genre. So, take notice, all of you wannabe filmmakers and screenwriters: all of the following advice I give for free and without any expectation of reward. To make things simpler, I have compiled seven – that’s lucky number seven – easy-to-follow-steps to make your very own film in this ever-growing and popular genre.
sure you have a director with a nonsensically cool name.
TRANSPORTER 3 was directed by a guy named…I kid you not…Olivier Megaton, whose name alone would look great up on a billboard with star Vin Diesel. Just think: “Diesel and Megaton…together for the first time!” Now, Megaton allows for filmgeeks’ nerd-radar to peak: It sounds vaguely like “Megatron”, the evil leader of the Decipticons from TRANSFORMERS. His birth name is actually Olivier Fontana (sounds like a boy band member), so he wisely decided to give himself a professional last name after, yup, his birthday: August of 1965 is the 20th Anniversary of the dropping of the A-bomb on Hiroshima.
guess that Olivier Pearl Harbor or Olivier D-Day would have been too politically
a totally ultra calm, collected, and forcefully tough male lead actor
playing the hero.
“transporter” in these films, the third one included, is played by the
dependably urbane, yet imperturbably sturdy and quietly intense, Jason Statham.
This dude sweats cool. The one thing that is most pleasing about the Brit action star is
that he’s fairly dialed down emotionally, kind of like Steve McQueen in
many ways. He's never a
frenetically animated or self-indulgently smug action hero.
No, he would just assume not fight anyone, and when he does mop the
floor up with multiple viscous adversaries, he never gloats.
He simply grabs his coat, straightens his collar and tie, and walks
out of the room. Not a hint of
shameful showboating. If playing a
hero-worshipping badass is an art form, then Statham knows every audible
in the playbook.
Have a virtually indestructible main character, one that seems impervious to gunfire, explosions, and multiple bad guys all attacking him at once with weapons as diverse as knives, boards, lead pipes, chains and large, oversized wrenches…if possible.
3 lovingly continues the comic book level of inane action and martial arts
mayhem that its previous antecedents established.
There are a few brawls in the film where Frank – the transporter
– is able to overcome what seems to be a dozen adversaries in a
mechanic's garage. I will add
one sidebar to Step 3 by saying that, if possible, ensure that the
adversaries only attack one at a time, because if everyone attacked at the
same time, the hero would be made into mince meat…right?
Now, you may be thinking...wouldn’t that contradict Step 3 altogether?
Yes, but only if they all attack at once. Also, if you can, make sure that the hero, after completely
decimating all of these antagonists in kung fu, gravity defying heroics,
make sure that he has to fight a monstrously large final henchman, that
– like the hero – also seems impervious to all known forms of physical
pain. Now, the key here is to
get creative with how the hero defeats the steroid-induced giant. Also end his successful battle with him on a high note with a
groan inducing – but satisfying – one-liner.
I suggest – as this movie does – to use, “You’re not so big
a fairly lame-brained and silly storyline that essentially acts as a
routine closeline for the film’s action sequences.
step is very important. You
must, at every waking turn, ensure that your story, at all times, feels
like it was developed to accommodate the action and stunts.
Actually, make the plot as forgettable and irrelevant as
possible. Hell, you don’t
even need to make it half-assed plausible.
TRANSPORTER 3 concerns Frank Martin (Statham) that is forced out of
retirement of sorts to accepting a package he does not want (actually,
he’s forced at gunpoint). The
package is an incredibly freckled red haired Ukrainian lass named
Valentina (Natalya Rudankova). He
is given orders to drive based on updates from the villain of the film,
Johnson (Robert Knepper). To
make sure that the job is done, Johnson attaches a bracelet to both the
hero and the woman, which is linked electronically to the car.
If they wander too far from the car (75 feet or so), they will
explode. These transmitters
can’t be taken off or disarmed either.
Now, the basic outline seems simple enough, but TRANSPORTER 3 also adds
in a convoluted sub-plot involving the girl’s well known politician
father, whose hands are forced in a business deal that never seems
logically explained in the film. No
matter…the subplot purely to allows for the action to stand out.
a fairly attractive, sexy, and essentially brainless, sex starved,
package/love interest for the main hero.
films are strong in this arena. The
second film had a ruthlessly cold-hearted and dexterously slinky villainous
named Lola (Kate Nauta), who more than fulfilled this Step’s need for a
worthy vixen. The first
TRANSPORTER had Shu Qui playing the role of the actual package that Frank
must transport. Alas, he fell
for her. Now we have the
legacy continued with the third film with Natalya Rudankova’s role as
the Ukrainian love interest. Yes,
her dialogue is teeth-grating, her attempts at line reading is borderline
abysmal, and her whole character is a categorical floozy that likes to
drink, do drugs, and have as much sex as possible…hopefully with Frank.
just say that Step 5 is a done deal here.
TRANSPORTER 3 is bimbo-centric to the hilt.
TRANSPORTER 3 is bimbo-centric to the hilt.
a lot of ham-infested dialogue that makes you cringe with giddy reverence
Step is kind of linked with Step 5, especially with the way that Valentina
and Frank engage in some dialogue exchanges that are from the worst pages
of the seduction playbook. Alas,
I do have some favourites from TRANSPORTER 3, the first of which is
spoken by the villain when he thinks that Frank has drowned in his car
(“Let his beloved car be his watery grave…”).
I also liked an exchange between the villain and hero in their
climatic final battle where the villain appears to be losing and he tells
Frank, “Listen, I have given it some thought, and I would like to offer
you a position,” to which Frank retorts, “ I have one for
but not least, completely ignore the laws of physics as much as humanly
possible and go for all out absurdity and over-the-top intensity with all
of the action sequences.
is what makes Cinema of Incredulity what it is:
It is of grave importance that these films not occupy a normal
plane of reality or existence. They
must not appear to take place in our world.
The tricky part is to come up with new and inventive ways to one-up
other films in this genre in terms of bizarre, eye rolling and head
scratching audacity. You also
have to ensure that audiences will smirk with all of the absurdity, and
not at it.
should be all but vacant here. The
point here is to wow viewers with moments that appeal based on their
fierce and persistent lack of realism.
Consider Frank’s trademark vehicle, for instance, in TRANSPORTER
3: It is the most dependable, reliable, and strong vehicle in recent movie
history. It’s able to crash through houses, careen off bridges,
absorb machine gun fire, and in one giddy moment, is able to leap off a
freeway and on to a moving train. It
then proceeds to drive on top of the moving train and crashes perfectly
into the same cargo car where the villain has the girl.
the car also astoundingly starts, with very little effort, after being
under water in a lake for several minutes.
Why is it in water?
doesn’t matter. All that
matters is that the car is equipped with its own levitation device that
operates from what I see as the car tires’ air pressure, although I am
not sure if there’d been enough air thrust to make the car rise.
Another scene that’s as howlingly funny and wickedly insane
Frank is being perused by thugs and sees two large monster semis in the
distance blocking both lanes in front of him.
But…he sees a tiny gap between both of them.
No problem: he turns the wheel strategically and forces the car to
turn itself up on its two driver’s side wheels and – presto! – he
slinks his way through the trucks.
Then there is the dilemma of how to keep in contact with his car, seeing as any distance more than 75 feet from it will mean that the transporter will erupt into hundreds of little transporter pieces. At one point Frank is separated from his car when an evil lug gets behind the wheel and drives off. No problem: Frank chases it on foot, showing that he must be the fastest man since DC Comic’s The Flash, considering that he is able to keep up. Even more knee slapping is when Frank commandeers a small bicycle and is able to strategically batter his way through warehouses and buildings (none of which he has ever been in before), crashing through windows, driving down stairs, doing all forms of tricks that only motorcross legends are capable of…until he reaches his car at just the right moment where he can leap off he bike, dropkick his way through the driver’s side window, and dispense with the thug. So, not only is Frank lethally fast on his feat and good with a bike, but he also has a GPS system hardwired into his brain. He precisely knows the layout of unfamiliar buildings, which allows him to navigate through them with ease.
for all of you fledging and aspiring screenwriters and directors...consider
this lesson over. As
you can see, if you follow all of these seven key steps properly, you too
can have your very own film worthy in the category of Cinema of
Clearly, as demonstrated, TRANSPORTER 3 more than appeases these fundamental steps. If you ever want to craft your own “incredible romp of complete and utter incredulity,” just consult this film…or its two previous installments.
Those will work fine, too.