Whether you think "Transporter 2" is as good as--or better than--the original will depend upon one thing: How do you like your Bond?
In the first "Transporter," martial arts guy Jason Stratham played a kind of Bond-like criminal. A snappy dresser and suave international traveler, he drove a fast and stylish sports car, he was a chick magnet, he had gadgets galore, and he delivered those deadpan joke lines when he nailed the baddies. It was as tongue-in-cheek as some of the best Bonds. In the sequel, co-writers Luc Besson ("Leon, the Professional"), Robert Mark Kamen ("Lethal Weapon 3") and director Louis Letterrier seem to have fallen in love with the idea of going all-out cheeky Bond. You know the type of film I'm talking about. As understated as the first film was, that's as over-the-top as "Transporter 2" goes. Frank zooms a jet-ski onto a bridge, skids right up to a school bus, and calmly gets onboard. He uses a fire hose like a pliable python to take on a bunch of thugs. He drives cars from building to building the way warriors fly in current martial arts films, and he "removes" a bomb from his car by driving straight up in the air and using a crane to hook the thing off his car's underside. So when he faces a scary-looking woman in lingerie who tries to blast him with two laser-sighted automatic hand-held weapons, you can't help but think of Bond's encounter with a scary-looking Grace Jones in "A View to a Kill."
This outing, like "Kindergarten Cop," transporter Frank Martin finds himself on kiddie detail. He's agreed to do a favor for a friend and sub as chauffeur for the family of a U.S. drug czar who lives in Miami. It turns out that National Drug Control Policy Officer Jeff Billings (Matthew Modine) is separated from his wife, Audrey (Amber Valletta), who now lives in the family's mansion with their young son, Jack (Hunter Clary). And it falls to Frank to mostly shuttle Jack here and there. The problem is, some very bad people want to get at the drug czar by kidnapping his boy. When Frank takes young Jack to the doctor's office, a scary-looking woman with "Death by Rabbit" tattooed on her is posing as the nurse. It doesn't take long before Frank figures out what's going on, and a wild shoot-out ensues. Of course, this woman can't seem to pull a trigger without first ripping open her coat to reveal skimpy lingerie and stiletto heels, but that's part of the all-out fun of this film. If you like absurd action, this one is for you.
It's also a wonderful showcase for the new Blu-ray technology. From the minute you see Frank's shiny black car in the opening sequence, it gleams with such detail you'd think you were in a showroom. There's eye-popping detail all through "Transporter 2," which offers one of the slickest, best-looking pictures I've seen on Blu-ray. Whether it's watching a rain of bullets and fireballs or just looking at Frank's sorta-friend, French policeman Tarconi (Francois Berleand) putter around the house until the cops close in on him thinking he's Frank, the picture looks great. And yes, the sound matches.
As action flicks go, this one rocks, but it will seem deeply flawed if you have a problem with the over-the-top direction that the film takes. It's about as realistic as a beer commercial. But if you don't take it too seriously, the stunts will amaze you. No less than legendary fight director Corey Yuen handles the martial arts sequences, and there are some imaginative stunts throughout. There's more action than there is logic--don't think too hard about some of the virus/serum issues that arise, for example--but as with "The Transporter," this one is a wild and crazy ride. With drug cartels, evil doctors, a twin-gun packing lady-in-lingerie leading a gang of crazy kidnappers, and police on his tail, once again the Transporter finds himself being chased for just about the whole 87 minutes. It's wall-to-wall action, with just enough character development to show how good the good guys really are.
What more can I say? This is the best Blu-ray picture I've seen. There's so much detail and such naturally saturated colors that each frame feels like a Superrealist painting. Black levels are so strong that even in sequences where the colors aren't bright, there's a sheen to the scenes that almost takes your breath away. The picture was transferred to a 25-gig single layer disc using MPEG-2 technology at 18MBPS, with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.
You'd hope for sound to match, and it does. Bullets zing and zip across your TV room and you can all but feel the fireball rumble toward you. Great rear-speaker effects and sound distribution, and a booming bass and bright, lively treble. The featured option is an English DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless audio, with additional options in Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. Subtitles are in English (CC) and Spanish.
Bummer. One theatrical trailer. That's it.
For my tastes, "Transporter 2" is a bit too over-the-top. I prefer my Bond stirred, not shaken--a little more tongue-in-cheek than cheeky--and so I felt that the first "Transporter" was stronger. But the sequel is still fun, especially if you're a fan of action movies. "Transporter 2" is also a showcase for the new Blu-ray format. It's a great disc to pop in when you want to impress people with your HD set-up.