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The Transporter 2

As Vincent Vega once said, you don't mess with a man's vehicle — it's against the rules. And when you have some sweet wheels, the rules suddenly become very important. Jason Statham returns in The Transporter 2 (2005) as Frank Martin, the world's most punctual action hero, and this time he's got a new ride. Gone is the beefy BMW from the first film, replaced by an Audi A8 W12, a 12-cylinder black sedan that has more than enough power to handle Frank's latest assignment: chauffeuring young Jack Billings (Hunter Clary) from his Miami home to school and back every day for his wealthy parents Jefferson and Amber Billings (Matthew Modine and Amber Valletta). A high-profile DEA appointee, Jefferson's work has taken him away from his family and put his marriage at risk — which makes his domestic life the perfect target for terrorists. International super-criminal Gianni Cellini (Alessandro Gassman), with the help of a team of Russian scientists and gorgeous trigger-girl Lola (Kate Nauta), conspire to kidnap Jack, although their meticulous plotting overlooks one crucial detail: Frank is no ordinary chauffeur. After a bust-up in a doctor's office, Frank is forced to surrender Jack to Gianni's henchmen, forcing the Feds to conclude that he's part of the conspiracy. Meanwhile, Frank stays on Gianni's trail, hoping at first to thwart a kidnapping, but eventually uncovering a far more sinister plot.

Thanks to Luc Besson, The Transporter 2 offers just as much escapist fun as its predecessor — far from a sophomore slump, this second installment has helped establish the title as a viable franchise, in part because of its combination of American production values and offshore sensibilities. As a genre exercise, The Transporter 2 is tempting to dismiss, were it not for the fact that it's just self-aware enough to wink now and then at the audience, deflecting sniffy film critics as if it were coated with bulletproof Teflon. Director Louis Leterrier returns (albeit without co-director Corey Yuen), and the script switches up not just cars, but locales (France for Miami) and villains (Yanks for Eurotrash), utilizing a boilerplate hostage scenario to get things underway (thankfully, it only plays like Man on Fire for the first ten minutes or so). François Berléand returns as French cop Tarconi, offering some badly needed comic relief, and while Matthew Modine seems far above this sort of material, it's fun to see Jason Statham paired again with his Lock, Stock co-star Jason Flemyng as one of the shadowy Russians. And of course, there's that car, which Statham handles as if he were brushing pylons at the Reno Air Races (it doesn't seem to have wings). Moreover, Statham's several mano a mano set-pieces reveal that he's now the clearest inheritor of Jackie Chan, particularly when it comes to fighting with found objects and scaling vertical surfaces. There are a few good one-liners here and there, and it's surprisingly easy to forgive a script in which Tarconi instantly masters complex computer databases and Russian guys argue with each other in bad broken English (don't they know how to speak, er, Russian?). Maybe it's because of Lola — newcomer Kate Nauta inhabits this unmistakably Bessonian nymph, who wears little more than lingerie and short hair and matching Mac-10s with silencers — and when she's not shooting at Frank, she licks his face and promises him a night of pleasure. Of course, our Frank isn't that kind of guy. As stoic as a samurai and loyal as Alan Ladd in Shane, he has to get the boy back. After all, that's rule number four. Fox's DVD release of The Transporter 2 offers a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Side A of the disc offers seven deleted and extended scenes, while Side B appears to include two behind-the-scenes featurettes (Fox's preview screener provided at press-time did not include the Side B supplements for review). Keep-case.

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