Transporter 3

Transporter 3 movie poster


Trans­porter 3, pro­duced by Luc Besson and direct­ed by Olivi­er Mega­ton, is an inter­na­tion­al prod­uct tai­lored for the Amer­i­can mar­ket. Despite its French locales, Ger­man cars, and adorably freck­led Ukrain­ian hot­tie, the hero and vil­lain are both quite Amer­i­can. The tit­u­lar Trans­porter is Frank Mar­tin (Jason Statham), a fight­er and dri­ver par excel­lence who earns a lux­u­ri­ous but lone­ly exis­tence as an ask-no-ques­tions couri­er. The events of his two pre­vi­ous mis­ad­ven­tures have reformed his amoral ways and lon­er habits, as evi­denced by his col­lab­o­ra­tive friend­ship with for­mer neme­sis Inspec­tor Tar­coni (François Berléand).

So in order for there to even be a Trans­porter 3, its plot must cor­ral this reformed man into a caper full of oppor­tu­ni­ties for car­nage and law­break­ing. The vil­lain­ous Amer­i­can John­son (Robert Knep­per) is con­ceived as Martin’s evil, less evolved twin: a mer­ce­nary like him, but unleav­ened by con­science. His ill-defined plan involves black­mail­ing Ukran­ian politi­cian Leonid Vasilev (Jeroen Krabbe) into allow­ing a giant cor­po­ra­tion to import a tanker full of bar­rels of tox­ic waste. At one point Mar­tin is men­aced by a truck full of the stuff on land, but the tanker hasn’t docked yet. Con­fus­ing.

Natalya RudakovaNatalya Rudako­va in Trans­porter 3

Statham is this generation’s Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Segal. He’s already been type­cast as the tough lon­er in a con­stant series of b-movies (some more B than oth­ers, but The Bank Job is a step up), but usu­al­ly light­ens things up with a hint of Jack­ie Chan-esque self-dep­re­ca­tion. He’s impec­ca­bly tai­lored, lean, and fero­cious­ly fit, look­ing and mov­ing more like a gym­nast than the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion of slow-mov­ing body­builder action heroes. A good drink­ing game for any Statham film is to drink a shot every time his shirt comes off. You’re like­ly to get alco­hol poi­son­ing in this case.

One of the rea­sons I enjoy pro­duc­er Luc Besson’s Trans­porter fran­chise is that I dis­like being expect­ed to applaud the typ­i­cal movie action hero that stands back and shoots bad guys from afar. This applies to pret­ty much any Stal­lone and Schwarzeneg­ger film, but is also true of even James Bond (in which his fabled license to kill often trans­lates into mow­ing down rooms full of extras with machine gun fire — or in the case of Moon­rak­er, laser pis­tols) and Indi­ana Jones (audi­ences applaud him for shoot­ing a scim­i­tar-wield­ing bad­die in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but real­ly, is that fair?). In stark con­trast, Mar­tin almost nev­er uses any weapon oth­er than his own phys­i­cal­i­ty. Most of the vio­lence in the Trans­porter films is in the acro­bat­ic, blood­less rock ‘em sock ‘em style of kung-fu flicks, lib­er­al­ly sea­soned with impres­sive auto­mo­bile car­nage. The first few min­utes of Trans­porter 3 fea­ture a sig­na­ture sequence in which Mar­tin dis­patch­es a room full of armed bad­dies using no tools save his own suit jack­et. But I was star­tled to see Mar­tin actu­al­ly exe­cute a few evil­do­ers lat­er in the film, some­thing I don’t recall him doing in the pre­vi­ous two. It’s whol­ly out of char­ac­ter, and spoils the fun.

Jason Statham in Transporter 3It’s nev­er long before Jason Statham’s shirt comes off

What dooms Trans­porter 3 to be the worst of the fran­chise is that there are sim­ply not enough action sequences, and what few there are are unin­spired. I recall only two more notable action sequences: in one, Mar­tin is teth­ered to his car by an explo­sive device (just roll with it), and must catch up to it on foot after it is stolen. Lat­er, he launch­es it off a bridge onto the top of a speed­ing train, and then from there smash­es it into the body of a detached pas­sen­ger car. For a movie so con­cerned with car chas­es, prod­uct it doesn’t help the audi­ence when most of the vehi­cles are dic­tat­ed by prod­uct place­ment to be the same brand (Audi) and col­or (black with tint­ed win­dows).

The awk­ward, eye­brow-rais­ing end­ing to Trans­porter 2 left it up in the air as to whether Mar­tin is gay or just an extreme lon­er. Sur­pris­ing­ly, Trans­porter 3 actu­al­ly revives that ques­tion and makes it its key sub­ject. When Vasilev’s hot freck­led daugh­ter Valenti­na (Natalya Rudako­va) comes on to him, Mar­tin protests he’s “not in the mood” but cer­tain­ly, absolute­ly, pos­i­tive­ly, no way no how, def­i­nite­ly not gay, how could you even ask, good grief. Well, that set­tles that ques­tion, in an rather dis­ap­point­ing­ly con­ven­tion­al man­ner. So the end of the film finds Mar­tin not only recon­firmed as a good guy, but also in a steady het­ero­sex­u­al rela­tion­ship. A key com­po­nent of both the James Bond and Jason Bourne char­ac­ters is that their great­est loves were mur­dered, so they choose to be emphat­i­cal­ly alone. Where can Besson take Frank Mar­tin in anoth­er sequel? Don’t expect Valenti­na to last long into Trans­porter 4.

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I’ve Loved You So Long



Writer / direc­tor Philippe Claudel’s I’ve Loved You So Long is a text­book exer­cise in the dra­mat­ic with­hold­ing of nar­ra­tive infor­ma­tion. Juli­ette (Kristin Scott Thomas) is released from prison after serv­ing 15 years for an unspec­i­fied crime, and is unwill­ing­ly housed with her sis­ter Léa (Elsa Zyl­ber­stein). Léa is ini­tial­ly her only ally, and her hus­band Luc (Serge Haz­anavi­cius) is dis­trust­ful for what turns out to be very good rea­son. Léa and Luc have adopt­ed two chil­dren (a big clue to the cen­tral mys­tery of the movie), includ­ing their pre­co­cious old­er daugh­ter P’tit Lys (Lise Ségur, a rare movie tyke that is actu­al­ly endear­ing). As part of her pro­ba­tion, Juli­ette is required to sign in week­ly with a lone­ly cop (Frédéric Pier­rot) with even more psy­cho­log­i­cal issues than she. The slow leak of infor­ma­tion ramps up the dra­ma, but we’re told just enough to see that the movie is actu­al­ly about Juliette’s grad­ual, some­times painful reen­try into life, not her mys­te­ri­ous crime.

Kristen Scott Thomas in I've Loved You So Long

Thomas’s unshowy per­for­mance is act­ing of the high­est degree. The British already proved her flu­en­cy in French in Tell No One (read The Dork Report review), although a line of dia­logue here explains away her accent. She doesn’t dis­tract by invit­ing the audi­ence to be con­stant­ly impressed at how tal­ent­ed she is. But that said, there were a few moments where I mar­veled at the com­plex emo­tions she con­veyed. Two scenes in par­tic­u­lar stand out: Juli­ette almost phys­i­cal­ly recoils when intro­duced to Léa’s col­league Michel (Lau­rent Grévill) and when reunit­ed with her estranged moth­er. Also watch for the almost inde­scrib­ably com­plex expres­sion that plays across her face when she meets a sleazy bloke in a pub short­ly after her release.

Kristen Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein in I've Loved You So Long

Only two fac­tors kept me from con­sid­er­ing the movie more high­ly. There’s a seem­ing­ly extra­ne­ous and unre­solved sub­plot about Léa ignor­ing a stu­dent who appears to have a crush on her, and claims he’s a sub­ject of prej­u­dice. Was the point mere­ly that Léa is an attrac­tive, sym­pa­thet­ic per­son? Sec­ond­ly, the movie arguably descends into talky melo­dra­ma at the very end; with­out reveal­ing too much, we learn the truth about what moti­vat­ed Juliette’s crime, and why she stub­born­ly kept her silence for so long.

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Ridley Scott’s A Good Year

Ridley Scott

A Good Year movie poster


Scott returns to France for the first time since his 1977 fea­ture film debut The Duel­lists (read The Dork Report review) for the fluffy souf­flé A Good Year. Max­imil­lian Skin­ner (Rus­sell Crowe) — hard­ly the most sub­tle of names — is a self-pro­claimed ass­hole that inher­its his uncle’s wine­mak­ing estate in Provence. His Uncle Hen­ry (Albert Finney, who also appeared in The Duel­lists) raised him there, but evi­dent­ly failed to impart the kinds of life lessons that would have mould­ed Skin­ner into a decent human being capa­ble of savor­ing the joys of life. The ide­al life as defined in the film is essen­tial­ly every­thing that a life of leisure in Provence pro­vides: name­ly, wine and women. But Skinner’s life in Lon­don is made up of much of the very same, so the solu­tion to fix­ing Skinner’s poi­soned soul is not to add some­thing that is miss­ing, but rather to sub­tract some­thing: his ass­hole­ness. Skin­ner does some­times man­i­fest some self-aware­ness; one moment he seems to gen­uine­ly rel­ish his life as the most venal of Lon­don stock­bro­kers, but the next he pro­fess­es a love we’ve nev­er before seen for his uncle and the sim­ple life of Provence.

Marion Cotillard and Russell Crowe in A Good YearRus­sell Crowe views his hand­i­work, writ large upon Mar­i­on Cotillard’s der­rière

Skinner’s waver­ing char­ac­ter com­ple­ments a num­ber of con­fus­ing plot holes. A run­ning mys­tery is the mys­te­ri­ous prove­nance of an excep­tion­al “garage wine” (lim­it­ed batch­es by tiny oper­a­tions, some­times lit­er­al­ly in a garage). Didi­er (Fran­cis Dulot), the long­time ten­der of the Skin­ner vin­yard, admits to delib­er­ate­ly pro­duc­ing undrink­ably vile wine under the vinyard’s ban­ner, in an attempt to run down the val­ue of the place and hope­ful­ly dis­in­ter­est Skin­ner in sell­ing it. But is he simul­ta­ne­ous­ly direct­ing his real tal­ents into the mak­ing of the mys­te­ri­ous garage wine? The plot thread is dropped and we nev­er learn for sure. The cool clos­ing cred­its make the film seem more enter­tain­ing­ly screw­ball than it actu­al­ly was, and there’s also an utter­ly bewil­der­ing coda involv­ing Skinner’s snarky assis­tant Gem­ma (Archie Pan­jabi) meet­ing a rap­per and his agent. Huh?

Marion Cotillard and Russell Crowe in A Good YearRus­sell Crowe learns what’s impor­tant in life: hot French girls

I’m not sure if Crowe has the same sort of Cary Grant-like appeal for women that George Clooney has in spades, but there is plen­ty of eye can­dy for male view­ers. The lus­cious Cal­i­forn­ian back­pack­er Christie (Abbie Cor­nish) appears on Skinner’s doorstep claim­ing to be his only blood rel­a­tive, and thus a rival to his inher­i­tance of the estate. French actress Mar­i­on Cotil­lard would lat­er dis­guise her­self very unflat­ter­ing­ly to play the frail, sick­ly Edith Piaf in the turgid biopic La Vie En Rose, but here she uncorks her full-on Gal­lic gor­geous­ness as Fan­ny (again, anoth­er of the movie’s unsub­tle names — for she rather spec­tac­u­lar­ly lifts her skirt in an out­doors café, to the delight of the entire town and, admit­ted­ly, this Dork Reporter). One of the fun­ni­est recur­ring gags is the pri­apic Skinner’s help­less dou­ble­takes to any of many dis­plays of ripe breasts and bums. But unfor­tu­nate­ly, one of the oth­er recur­ring jokes is his repeat­ed invol­un­tary expo­sures to ani­mal dung.

Abbie Cornish in A Good YearAbbie Cor­nish as the cousin Skin­ner wish­es he didn’t have, for more rea­sons than one

A Good Year takes quite a long time to get going, but does seem to pick up some comedic ener­gy once Skinner’s cold Lon­don heart defrosts while court­ing Fan­ny in the sec­ond act. Rid­ley Scott can always be count­ed for fine art direc­tion and cin­e­matog­ra­phy, but here he wields his tal­ents blunt­ly. Even the col­or tem­per­a­ture is clichéd, lest any view­ers miss the point; Provence is amber-hued, and Lon­don is steely elec­tric blue. The right choice for Skin­ner is nev­er in doubt; liv­ing on a wine­mak­ing estate in Provence with a beau­ti­ful French girl is a fan­ta­sy prob­a­bly every human being on earth shares, ass­hole or not.

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Ridley Scott’s The Duellists

Ridley Scott

The Duellists movie poster


Rid­ley Scott’s first fea­ture film The Duel­lists (1977) is based on the Joseph Con­rad short sto­ry “The Duel.” Fer­aud (Har­vey Kei­t­el) and D’Hubert (Kei­th Car­ra­dine), two French sol­diers serv­ing under Napoleon, become loy­al ene­mies locked in a life­long adver­sar­i­al rela­tion­ship. D’Hubert, eager to appease his supe­ri­ors and advance his career, vol­un­teers for a mis­sion in which he obliv­i­ous­ly humil­i­ates Fer­aud. Both men are at fault: D’Hubert for his ambi­tion, and Fer­aud for obses­sive­ly nurs­ing his per­pet­u­al griev­ance. Their per­son­al bat­tles super­sede French his­to­ry, with even the reign and fall of Napoleon a mere back­drop to their per­son­al feud.

Harvey Keitel in The DuellistsDon’t let the frilly sleeves fool you, Fer­aud (Har­vey Kei­t­el) will frite your pommes and manger your crois­sant

The Duel­lists is respect­ed for the his­tor­i­cal authen­tic­i­ty of its French mil­i­tary uni­forms and depic­tions of peri­od wartime con­duct, but Kei­t­el and Carradine’s flat Amer­i­can accents threat­en to undo its achieve­ments in verisimil­i­tude. Luck­i­ly, the impor­tant bits, the duels, are staged silent­ly. Scott, with his back­ground in adver­tis­ing, films every­thing beau­ti­ful­ly, although one does catch glimpses of the occa­sion­al lamp and smoke machine. The land­scapes dur­ing the final duel are espe­cial­ly breath­tak­ing.

Keith Carradine in The DuellistsKei­th Car­ra­dine is a comin’ ta getcha, Mr. White!

I’ve seen hard­ly any of Carradine’s movies, but I do have great respect for his bril­liant por­tray­al of one of America’s first celebri­ties, Wild Bill Hickok, in the HBO series Dead­wood. And Kei­t­el gets to show off his seri­ous mus­cles in a gra­tu­itous arm-wrestling sequence.

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Né le dis à personne (Tell No One)

Ne le dis à personne (Tell No One)


Tell No One enjoyed a sur­pris­ing­ly wide US the­atri­cal release for a French film with­out huge Eng­lish-speak­ing stars (except for Eng­lish­woman Kristin Scott Thomas, per­fect­ly flu­ent in French). Roger Ebert right­ly com­pared the tight­ly craft­ed thriller with The Fugi­tive, plac­ing it square­ly in Hitch­cock­ian wrong-man-accused ter­ri­to­ry.

Pedi­a­tri­cian Alex Beck (François Cluzet) finds him­self the prime sus­pect of his wife’s mur­der, eight years pri­or. This being a French film, the fortysome­thing Beck was mar­ried to the utter­ly gor­geous younger Mar­got (Marie-Josee Croze, great in Julien Schnabel’s The Div­ing Bell and the But­ter­fly — read The Dork Report review). One might accept this as a giv­en premise of the sto­ry, for some­times old coots real­ly do bag hot young wives, had the film not ruined it by demon­strat­ing via flash­back that the char­ac­ters are sup­posed to be the same age.

Ne le dis à personne (Tell No One)Run Beck Run

I found Tell No One more focused and engag­ing before the con­spir­a­cy widens to an almost absurd degree, envelop­ing even a Sen­a­tor in a vast cov­er-up. I will admit to being con­fused at times; to grasp the details and con­vo­lut­ed time­line, view­ers will have to remem­ber char­ac­ter names, not faces, as the chronol­o­gy of some key plot points are con­veyed via expo­si­tion (that is, told, not shown).

Ne le dis à personne (Tell No One)Fun­ny how bad things hap­pen to peo­ple who skin­ny dip in movies…

Hints of the recent race/class ten­sions in France are built into the plot: Beck’s equa­nim­i­ty as a pedi­a­tri­cian earned the trust of some less priv­i­leged thugs on the wrong side of the law. That they will aid him when no one else will iron­i­cal­ly demon­strates his essen­tial good­ness.

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Le Scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly


Julian Schn­abel is an artist turned film­mak­er, evi­dent­ly pre­oc­cu­pied with the lives of oth­er artists and writ­ers: Jean-Michel Basquiat in Basquiat, Reinal­do Are­nas in Before Night Falls, and now Jean-Dominique Bau­by in The Div­ing Bell and the But­ter­fly. Sev­er­al years ago, This Dork Reporter designed Fine Line Fea­tures’ offi­cial web­site for Before Night Falls. But frankly, I had trou­ble work­ing up the enthu­si­asm to watch a biopic (absolute­ly not one of my favorite gen­res) about a tetraplegic. But please do not be dis­suad­ed by the admit­ted­ly depress­ing sub­ject mat­ter. The Div­ing Bell and the But­ter­fly is utter­ly beau­ti­ful in every way, and moved this hard­ened Dork Reporter to tears in the end.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Math­ieu Amal­ric (who resem­bles a more sym­met­ri­cal Thom Yorke) plays the real-life Bau­by, a fash­ion mag­a­zine edi­tor who suf­fers a stroke. He sur­vives with “locked-in syn­drome,” the prover­bial fate worse than death: near-total phys­i­cal paral­y­sis but with full men­tal fac­ul­ties intact. In the true spir­it of a French film, Bau­by is sur­round­ed by beau­ti­ful women. No less a French hot­tie than Emanuelle Seign­er plays Céline, the estranged moth­er of his chil­dren. In a moment of bit­ter­sweet humor, the despon­dent post-stroke Bau­by is par­tial­ly con­soled when he first meets his two utter­ly gor­geous phys­i­cal and speech ther­a­pists (Marie-Josée Croze and Anne Con­signy).

The Diving Bell and the ButterflyThe cam­era loves Emanuelle Seign­er

Accord­ing to the DVD bonus fea­tures, screen­writer Ronald Har­wood con­ceived of the pow­er­ful visu­al device of using the cam­era as Bauby’s point of view, sim­u­lat­ing his sole means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion: blink­ing. He is, bless­ed­ly, able to move one eye, and painstak­ing­ly dic­tates his biog­ra­phy let­ter by let­ter.

The sound­track is excel­lent, includ­ing Tom Waits, Joe Strum­mer (a real­ly great song, new to me, called “Ram­shackle Day Parade”), and the best pos­si­ble use of U2’s “Ultra­vi­o­let.”

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Banlieue 13 (District B13)

Banlieue 13 movie poster


To the edi­tors of Time that picked Dis­trict B13 as one of the 10 best films of the year, I can only ask, dude, Que la baise vous pen­saient-elles? Yes, grant­ed, it touch­es on some extreme­ly sen­si­tive and time­ly issues in a racial­ly and cul­tur­al­ly divid­ed Paris, but those moments are bolt­ed-on and heavy-hand­ed, serv­ing as mere filler between admit­ted­ly awe­some park­our sequences. I had more fun at The Trans­porter.

Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain

Amelie movie poster


One of my favorite films of all time. It’s just such a movie, you know? The same is true of vir­tu­al­ly all of Jeunet’s films; I have such fond mem­o­ries of see­ing Del­i­catessen on a crap­py 16mm print at col­lege, City of Lost Chil­dren at the Cam­bridge Film Fes­ti­val, and Amélie and A Very Long Engage­ment at the Paris The­ater in New York City. We won’t men­tion Alien Res­ur­rec­tion, OK?

Although a big hit in France, my under­stand­ing is that there was some­thing of a back­lash against it, due in part to its lit­er­al­ly can­dy-col­ored por­tray­al of a sto­ry­book Mon­temartre far removed from real­i­ty. Also, a review­er in Sight & Sound (a film jour­nal whose opin­ion I near­ly always respect, if not agree with) utter­ly slammed the film, appar­ent­ly per­son­al­ly offend­ed by the sex­u­al pol­i­tics. But I find Amélie so delight­ful, inven­tive, and so full of feel­ing that I can con­fi­dent­ly state any­body that hates this movie just hates movies peri­od.