The “Transporter” series is the cinematic equivalent of cotton candy: a quick sugar rush that melts in your mouth and is forgotten five minutes later. Sure, there might be some slight rot (your teeth with the cotton; your brain with the movie), but no lasting harm is done.
The brainchild of Luc Besson and the series that turned Jason Statham into this generation’s premier B-movie action star, “The Transporter” and its sequel were high-octane fun. Not to mention 90-minute commercials for Audi: Tooling around Nice, France, and then Miami never looked so fun.
It’s a mild disappointment, then, that the capstone to this trilogy is so leaden. Clocking in at 100 minutes, “Transporter 3” isn’t long, per se, but one can see why that extra 10 minutes was cut from each of its predecessors. It’s dead weight, the debris you jettison to get that extra mile per hour or two on the racetrack.
Mr. Statham returns as Frank Martin, the driver with three rules: Never change the deal, never use names, and never look inside the package. Rules are meant to be broken, of course, and Frank doesn’t even bother implementing them this time around.
His package is a young Ukrainian woman by the name of Valentina (Natalya Rudakova); why the mysterious American Johnson (Robert Knepper) wants her shuttled around Eastern Europe is unknown.
The action sequences are as good and as ridiculous as ever. Frank throws his Audi around with such abandon that it’s hard to imagine him going through fewer than a dozen models each year.
“Transporter 3” slows to a crawl, however, every time director Olivier Megaton departs from the action and tries to craft a relationship between Frank and Valentina. There’s also a straight-from-the-‘80s plot twist in which evil businessmen seek someplace to dump their toxic waste.
Mr. Statham is excellent as usual; few actors could get away with the slightly put-out look he sports after a fellow driver’s car careens into the side of his house, for example. Mr. Knepper’s emergence as the go-to B-movie villain continues - between his performance here, in last year’s video game adaptation “Hitman,” and his skeevy sex criminal in “Prison Break,” Mr. Knepper can’t be beat. Even Miss Rudakova is OK, although one imagines Mr. Megaton’s direction consisting of little more than “Look pretty” and “Occasionally mangle English in cute ways.”
TITLE: “Transporter 3”
RATING: PG-13 (sequences of intense action and violence, some sexual content and drug material)
CREDITS: Directed by Olivier Megaton, written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
WEB SITE: http://transporter3 film.com
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS