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Notes from the back row

Rehashed action

There are two kinds of action movies – Summer Blockbuster and not Summer Blockbuster. The Dark Knight belongs in the first category, Transporter 3 , opening this Friday at the Village 8, does not.

The problem with Transporter 3 , directed by Best-Name-of-2008-Winner Olivier Megaton, is that you don’t expect a lot going in, and you get less than that. Jason Statham returns as Frank, a man of precision, a car driver who delivers packages for the criminal underworld. This time he’s just moving a kidnapped girl around Europe till it’s time to collect, but they’re both outfitted with exploding bracelets that prevent them from getting further than 100 feet from Frank’s car.

That’s about as much of the plot as you need to (or can) understand. You don’t walk into a Transporter flick hoping for epiphanies. This movie is a prolonged fight sequence interrupted by car chases and a half-assed PG-13 romance, all set in an action-packed world where gravity and physics work just a wee bit different and bad guys say things like, “Do you think we’re playing games here?”

  It’s all a bit ridiculous, bad even, but if you know that going in then Transporter 3 is watchable, although it’s not as much fun as the first films and some of the editing is way too choppy. They hired Corey Yeua (who directed the first installment) to choreograph the fights and then barely let you see the action in anything longer than 3 millisecond flashes.

Many of the old Transporter signatures are back — impossible rules, a lead actress who doesn’t really speak English, and the return of the incredibly odd art of strip-fighting where Stratham beats up people using his own clothing (and theirs) as weapons until he ends up shirtless and slicked up. It’s all very homoerotic (remember in Transporter 1 when Stratham literally dumped oil on his bare torso and then continued kicking ass because the bad guys’ hands kept slipping when they tried to grab onto him? How about right after that when he was underwater and he kissed that dead guy to steal his breath?)

While many people find it boggling that this kind of picture even gets made, the truth is that this is the new millennium’s amped-up equivalent of stupid actioners of the ‘80s and ‘90s. For every Rambo there’s the 1987 Sylvester Stallone professional arm wrestling movie, Over the Top. For every Die Hard there’s a Steven Seagl Out for Justice . And for every Bourne Identity there’s stuff like Transporter 3.

This is how Hollywood stays afloat – twenty million here, thirty there. The blockbusters are nice but unpredictable whereas upper-echelon B-Grade usually makes money due to small budgets and dumbed-down audiences. The first two Transporters grossed over $70 million domestically. We’ll see if Stratham, who’s enjoying better roles these days (e.g. The Bank Job) will stick around for the inevitable number four.

On DVD this week, Hancock has arrived. It’s a movie about a superhero no one likes and while the premise and first half of the movie are pretty good, it all fizzles in the last half and you walk away trying to figure out if you’re more disappointed or pissed off at how badly the filmmakers dropped the ball on that one. As well,   24-Redemption — a TV movie that aired last Sunday — hits the rental aisle. Too bad it’s as boring as a water-flavoured slurpee.

Thankfully, the Whistler Film Fest is next week. The new Bruce McDonald ( Hard Core Logo, Highway 61) flick, Pontypool, closes the festival on Sunday night. Apparently it’s a zombie movie about a small Ontario town infected by a deadly rage virus that’s transmitted through the English language. McDonald’s a Canadian legend, this will be worth checking out.