Bright Lights Film Journal

My brain thinks bomb-like

That’s a line from “Hell’s around the Corner,” from Tricky’s 1995 debut, MAXINQUAYE, one of the “key” albums of the then-emerging genre of trip hop. Buried in the mid-1990s time capsule here in the states (currently “played out” and awaiting retro chick excavation in 2011), it’s heard on the TRANSPORTER 3 soundtrack in the love scene between Jason Statham and his package du jour, Natalya Rudikova. My first thought “What!? Didn’t Besson get the memo?” Second thought: I fucking LOVE Besson!

T3’s director, the hilariously named Olivier Megaton and Luc “Gallic Woo” Besson don’t care if it’s “outdated” – they like it, so they use it… that’s very European. There are lots of other things to love in TRANSPORTER 3 as well, including a daffy kidnapping plot involving toxic waste dumping rights and explosive SPEED-style trick handcuffs. And also some genuine romantic contact (as in “connection”) between Rudikova and lead action star Jason Statham.

Statham may have become the self-made laddish Bond of modern action cinema. He carries it like a champ and one wonders if Daniel Craig didn’t glean just a little of his Bond’s cobra-stillness and wounded dove intensity from Jason. His constant underplaying–which I originally found a burden in films like GHOSTS OF MARS–has become charming, even intoxicating, with age. You start watching the film thinking oh yeah, he’s bound to shag this freckled Ukrainian raver somewhere along the journey, but then whammo… somehow it moves from A VIEW TO A KILL back to ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. Viva la France!

Even without the romantic angle, the film conveys an innate cheerfulness missing from all the clinically depressed, oil slick ennui of US franchises like BATMAN and X-MEN. I mentioned Tricky above because it’s indicative of the difference between European and American musical mentality. TRANSFORMER 3 proves that someone still listens to mid-1990s electronica, and isn’t afraid to play it at a party… and if they like it enough to still play it after 14 years, they “really” like it and aren’t just posing, aren’t just using it because some market research report told them it appealed to a wide demographic.

For us, any music we once loved becomes something we’re “Sick of” – we overdo it and it has to lie buried until it’s exhumed as nostalgia, until it makes us recall the memories we associate with the few months we listened to it all the time. We’re sonic vampires, bleeding artists dry in a single top ten hit. Then we bury them, and on the seventh day and ten to twenty years they rise again, hazy with the rose-tinted glow of the rear view mirror, to drink the blood of the living… and of course, royalties.

The nutty optimism of Europe is enthralling for us left too long in WATCHMEN swamps of national self-loathing. We look up from our concrete cell floors in awe as Rudikova busts moves on our Jason, bullying him into even performing a strip tease. But Luc does the switch and instead we get an actual love affair as she zeroes in on his inability to open up and he’s so damn cool he even melts a bit just for her, because he knows a true warrior isn’t afraid of anything, even turning weak in the arms of a woman. In lesser hands it might not work, but where MAX PAYNE feared to tread (he threw Olga Kurlyenko right out of bed), Statham gets right up close and human-personal in a way that makes me think, of all people, Kris Kristofferson!

The goofball stunts in TRANSPORTER 3 conjure 1970s Burt Reynolds movies and Jackie Chan acrobatics alike in an even better way than the American Xtreme sports of Vin Diesel and Tyrese. There’s not many guns with Burt Reynolds either, it’s all good-natured saloon fights, with everyone buying each other drinks later and swapping wives. In other words, for all its lack of frills and funny costumes, TRANSPORTER 3 is the action movie we need now… the antidote to the overcooked depression and operatic self-importance of our current superheroes and video-game stars. See it and remember that adrenalin-pumping action needn’t reflect dystopia and despair… Let Jason Statham help you remove your gray-tinted Gotham glasses and see the world as it really is: infinite, sweet at heart, appreciative of fine leather interiors, and loyal to the trip hop core.