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Friday, September 2, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Transporter 2" delivers full-throttle diversion

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2.5 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Transporter 2," with Jason Statham, Matthew Modine, Amber Valletta, Kate Nauta, Alessandro Gassman. Directed by Louis Leterrier, from a screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. 88 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violent action, sexual content, partial nudity, brief language. Several theaters.

Ever since "The Transporter" became a surprise hit three years ago, I've been telling anyone who'd listen that action movies need more guys like Jason Statham. The balding British hunk made his debut in Guy Ritchie's "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," but it was his "Transporter" role — as ex-Special Forces operative, driver-for-hire and lethal gentleman Frank Martin — that made Statham a star.

Tom Cruise recruited Statham for a cameo in "Collateral," and in 20 seconds of screen time, Statham almost made you wish he was the star of that film. While boy-men like Orlando Bloom and Colin Farrell turn historical epics ("Kingdom of Heaven" and "Alexander," respectively) into epic flops, Statham's the real deal. James Bond would gladly buy him a martini, shaken or stirred.

Now comes "Transporter 2" ("a follow-up film was not unexpected," reads the press kit), and while it's a routine, full-throttle action flick set in Miami, Statham's still got the goods, anchoring the mayhem with charisma and white dress shirts to spare. "Transporter" writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen haven't even tried to come up with an original plot this time, but if Statham ever gets a decent script, his improving box-office clout will go ballistic.

Then again, you don't expect credibility from a movie that exists solely to give action fans 88 minutes of mindless diversion. Whether he's serving as producer, co-writer or director of bullet-ridden hits like "The Professional," Besson knows that the genre thrives on the defiance of reality, with injections of humor to acknowledge the absurdity.

And where John Woo uses white doves as a trademark, Besson (in producer mode here) has a reliable fetish for anorexic supermodels like Kate Nauta, appearing here as Lola, lithe and lethal, with raccoon-eye mascara, a slinky S&M wardrobe and twin guns ablazing. If she doesn't get an action figure, millions of overnight fans will demand one. Oh, and she's not shy with her tongue.

Lola's employed by the slick narcissist Gianni (Alessandro Gassman, son of the late Italian star Vittorio Gassman), a preening piece of Eurotrash hired by the Colombian drug cartel to eliminate the U.S. drug czar (Matthew Modine, taking an easy paycheck) by kidnapping his 6-year-old son, injecting the kid with a deadly virus, then releasing him so Modine will catch the bug and pass it along to all attendees of a historic anti-drug conference.

And Frank? Just so happens he's chauffeuring the kid as a favor to a friend, and Modine's neglected wife (the lovely Amber Valletta) is only too eager to express her thanks, which Frank politely declines — hey, the man's got ethics. The kidnapping turns Frank, in his indestructible Audi A8, into a one-man retaliation squad, with "Transporter" cop Tarconi (François Berléand) arriving from France for comic relief and too-easy access to FBI databases.

"Transporter 2" is franchise hackwork, easily dismissed but adequately enjoyable. Another follow-up will not be unexpected.

Jeff Shannon: j.sh@verizon.net

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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