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'Transporter 2': Jason Statham's Going Places

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 2, 2005

I don't know what "it" is, but I know who's got "it" and who doesn't. I don't, for example. You don't either. He doesn't, she doesn't, they don't. Out here in the real world, there is no "it."

"It" is a movie thing, and Jason Statham, star of the otherwise low-IQ, sub-13-year-old fantasy "Transporter 2," has got "it." When he drives a car from the 18th floor of one building to the 10th floor of another building (and he didn't even know the second building was there ; he took it on faith) or declines kissing a woman so beautiful it'll make your gums ache or double-scissors-kicks two large men with necks the diameter of bridge cable and makes you believe it, that's "it."

Statham isn't the best thing in "Transporter 2"; he's essentially the only thing. It's his charisma vs. the World. Score: Statham 2, World naught.

He's an Englishman -- balding, lithe, focused -- discovered by director Guy Ritchie, who cast him in "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch," and now he's doing better than Ritchie. Plus, he's not married to Madonna.

This film repeats but amplifies, or rather inflates, the formula of its predecessor, "Transporter." It's blown up so big and bright it's like a world's fair combined with an auto show and a square dance. Statham again plays Frank Martin, a former special operations trooper who now delivers things for a living. He is very good at delivering things, especially when certain people don't want those things delivered.

He's a driver, a fighter, a shooter. The movies necessarily, therefore, involve large amounts of driving, fighting and shooting.

In this one -- the plot seems stolen from "Man on Fire" -- he's signed on to deliver young Jack Billings (Hunter Clary) to and from school in posh Miami every day. Jack's dad (Matthew Modine) seems to be the head of the DEA. Since DEA is headquartered in Washington, that part didn't really make much sense.

In any event, it turns out that some very bad folks, fronted by a charismatic bad guy named Gianni (played by Alessandro Gassman), want to kidnap the boy, then use him as leverage for another, larger, far more destructive plot. Everything they do involves at least 30 extras and half the guns in Miami (each extra carries about nine). Somehow a batch of Russians is involved, as is Gianni's screwball girlfriend Lola, who looks like she checked in from Stanley Kubrick's Droogs-R-Us milk bar in the next block. Lola carries two Glock machine pistols and is forever giggling and ventilating simultaneously. She's played with some zest by Katie Nauta, who may actually be pretty and talented under the oil slick of eye makeup spatula'd onto her orbital cavities.

But all of that really merits only a big so-what. The plot is stupid and obvious. Amber Valletta, as Jack's mom, is a Cameron Diaz look-alike with -- this is hard to believe -- even less talent, and when Statham isn't on-screen you'll be trying to remember that brief, crazy month of 1984 when Modine was considered a movie star.

The rest is Statham, mesmerizing, dominating, fascinating. Get this guy into a good movie and you'll have something really cool.

Transporter 2 (88 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for violent action, sexual content, partial nudity, eye makeup, Glock product placement and bad language.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company