The opening shot of Transporter 2 consists of a shiny Audi sitting in an underground car park, with neon reflecting off of its curves. It's a scene that recalls a time when Luc Besson was at the forefront of a loosely-recognised movement (sometimes dubbed "le cinema du look") of young French filmmakers, along with Jean-Jacques Beineix, making films such as Subway which combined Hollywood and advertising imagery with their superficial glamour, thrills and escapism. There is nothing "arthouse" about this French filmmaker. Since his Hollywood pomp of The Fifth Element and Leon, Luc Besson has scaled back his ambition to head up pseudo-American fare filled with car chases, gun-play, martial arts, machismo and the odd sexy femme or three. Like hero Frank Martin (Jason Statham), the first Transporter film was lean, muscular, not terribly expressive but good company for an hour-and-a-half. Transporter 2 achieves much the same effect.
This time around, Frank is living in Miami doing a short-term job chauffeuring Jack (Hunter Clary), the young son of wealthy couple Audrey (Amber Valletta) and Jackson Billings (Matthew Modine). Dad just happens to be a high-ranking official in the US war on drugs; he's not giving his son (or wife) enough attention, so Frank becomes a stand-in father figure.
When Jack is kidnapped by a multiethnic gang of villains, headed up by the wonderfully Eurotrash pairing of slick kendo expert Gianni (Alessandro Gassman) and psychotic gun-toting mannequin Lola (Kate Nauta), Frank gets involved out of a sense of duty. Especially, as the little tyke reminds him, "You promised you'd never let anybody hurt me. You promised!" And Frank is man who keeps his promises. He's also a man who takes off his jacket before taking on a mob of goons, who chases buses on jet-skis and who leaps into the void to catch vials of antidote. The plot, you see, involves some sort of manufactured virus ("a recombinant double-polymer retrovirus" - hell yeah!).
Suffice to say, the storyline isn't terribly important. Instead Besson and his regular collaborators, namely director Louis Leterrier (who co-directed the first film, and also made Unleashed) and renowned martial arts actor and action coordinator Corey Yuen (who also co-directed the original, but is here credited as choreographer and second unit director), contrive a film that takes in some inventive fights, plenty of chases and car stunts, some comedy and plenty of good-looking people. Model-turned-actress Amber Valletta follows her role in Hitch with an able turn here, but fellow catwalker Kate Nauta makes for particularly memorable eye-candy, as her character Lola spends much of the film wearing nothing but undies and guns.
Then of course there's Statham. Despite his peculiar American accent, the British ex-athlete and Lock, Stock boy-done-good (his old cohort Jason Flemyng also has a role here as a scumbag) carries the movie; like The Rock, he's a charismatic and credible action hero.