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Transporter 3 Gave Jason Statham’s Action Franchise a Full Throttle Finale

Somewhere off the coast of France, Frank Martin’s probably still picking a fight with a fish.

By Benjamin Bullard

Even though fighting (and cracking wise) are his main bread and butter, you don't have to look further than Fast X to know that Jason Statham has always looked cool around cars. In Transporter 3, Statham’s franchise-defining pedal jockey, Frank Martin, stays as stylish as ever behind the well-leathered wheels of sleek European sedans. But he somehow manages to look cool in more unconventional ways (like tearing through Budapest streets on a 20-inch BMX bike!), before putting a sweet exclamation point on the final chapter in the racy, ridiculously over-the-top Transporter action trilogy.

As movie franchises go, Transporter comes with a pretty unique creative pedigree. Beginning with 2002’s first film, the trilogy teamed the writing talents of quirky sci-fi director and scribe Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Lucy, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) and original The Karate Kid screenwriter, Robert Mark Kamen. It’s not the duo’s only action-oriented pairing; they also joined forces to craft screenplay hoops for Liam Neeson to leap through in the Taken film series. After being helmed through the first two movies by eventual Fast X director Louis Leterrier, the third Transporter flick shifted gears for the series' swan song, seating director Olivier Megaton (Taken 2 & 3) behind the steering wheel.

Like its full-throttle predecessors, Transporter 3 doesn’t need much idle time before shifting straight into action-movie overdrive. Let's take a look back.

For More from Jason Statham:
In Praise of Jason Statham in The Mechanic 1 & 2
Why Jason Statham Prefers Action Roles Like Fast & Furious Over Playing a Superhero
Will We Ever Get a (Shocking) Third Film in Jason Statham's Crank Series?

Jason Statham finds the finish line in Transporter 3

This time out, a shady character named Jonas Johnson (Robert Knepper) approaches Statham's always-able delivery courier Frank Martin for a new driving gig. But after his last movie outing in Miami, Frank’s having too peaceful and serene a time off the coast of France trading fishing failures with his longtime friend and confidant Inspector Tarconi (who’s played throughout the original Transporter trilogy by French actor François Berléand). Content to catch fish (or enjoy at least trying) with his older workplace pal, Frank says he’s not interested and instead pawns the job off on a younger transporter named Malcolm (David Atrakchi).

Johnson, though, isn’t the kind of guy you simply say “no” to, a fact that Frank finds out while chilling at home that evening when the transporter car driven by Malcolm comes crashing through his living room wall. Malcolm, who’s injured, ends up dead when the ambulance taking him away from the scene explodes only yards down the driveway. That leaves just one other crash victim — a young, freckle-faced Ukrainian woman named Valentina (Natalya Rudakova). She’s shaken but otherwise unhurt after the night’s crazy events, but for some reason she’s reluctant to leave the smoldering vehicle. As Frank soon learns, though, there’s a pretty good reason why she seems so dead-set on staying stubbornly planted in the crashed car’s passenger’s seat.

Valentina (Natalya Rudakova) and Frank Martin (Jason Statham) are thrown around in a car in Transporter 3 (2008).

Johnson waits for the exploding-ambulance trick to send its ominous message, then contacts Frank with a new offer: Take the original job and hit the highway ASAP in a waiting delivery car, while awaiting further instruction about his ultimate destination. Frank gets an extra incentive to make good on the deal, thanks to a ticking time-bomb story trick lifted straight out of Speed: Johnson’s henchmen strap Frank's wrist with an explosive metal bracelet that senses when he walks even a short distance him from the car, with the understanding that the device is programmed to go boom if that happens. Just to sweeten the intrigue, Valentina already has one of the deadly gadgets planted on her wrist as well… which kind of explains why she didn’t want to hop out of the now-spoiled first vehicle in the first place.

Once Frank and Valentina are out on the road, there’s a whole action movie’s worth of insanity that transpires not only in and around Frank’s vehicle, but in cross-cut flashes that drop in on the bad guys’ machinations back in France (as well as Inspector Tarconi’s cat-and-mouse detective’s games to uncover what they’re actually up to). That part of the story doesn’t matter too much; it’s a big, sleazy government infiltration scheme aimed at strong-arming a sanctioned smuggling operation, which mainly just serves as Transporter 3’s necessary plot MacGuffin. The main thing to note is that it all hinges on Frank making that high-stakes delivery… and that Frank and his new riding partner had better improvise a fast plan if they don’t want to become Johnson’s newest disposable servants just as soon as the job is done.

A car drives sideways between two trucks in Transporter 3 (2008).

Improvising its way through just that kind of plan is where Transporter 3 finds a lot of its action magic, with Frank facing down bad guys in fight sequences that somehow manage to top most of what Statham already had pulled off in the first two films. There’s a video game logic to these action set pieces: Frank will mow down a scrub mob of meanies in a fight’s first phase, before moving on to a far harder standoff with a final-boss character that requires a bit more strategic thinking (and general bad-assness).

When he’s not throwing hands, Frank’s four-wheeled challenges (not to mention Valentina and her wild-card personality) are more than enough to keep him plenty busy. There’s an insane car chase midway through the film where he has to prop his Audi up on two wheels to dart between two semi trucks — just one of several gonzo near-death experiences that themselves would be gnarly enough even without Valentina's erratic party-girl vibes tossing totally unpredictable banana peels in his path.

In the end, Frank gets to the bottom of why Valentina’s been selected as his shotgun-seat partner, while managing to elude all their captors in a crash-and-splash filled finale that puts a sweet, if kind of messy, bow on the Transporter trilogy. It’s a conclusive enough finish to give fans confidence that Statham’s hero happily sailed off into the sunset with only a ruined car or two to cry over — even as it left the franchise open to point its action GPS in new directions with The Transpoorter Refueled 2015 movie reboot, and even an early-2010s small-screen spinoff series.

Catch Transporter 3, streaming now on Peacock!