Transporter: The Series actually exists.
It helps to establish upfront that this is a real thing. Not just some hallucination your trusty reviewer stumbled upon while surfing Netflix for something to watch during the Christmas TV doldrums.
Based on the Jason Statham movies, Transporter focuses on Frank Martin (Chris Vance). Frank is a former British soldier who now works as a transporter, moving sensitive packages for rich, shady people with no questions asked. The legality of the package is irrelevant and armed marauders trying to intercept it are almost guaranteed.
Frank is supported by Carla (Andrea Osvárt), who books the jobs and provides logistical support when Frank’s in the field. Dieter (Charly Hübner) is the German mechanic who maintains and repairs Frank’s cars. When not driving, Frank lives in an isolated house outside Nice, overlooking the water. He maintains a pointed friendship with Tarconi (Francois Berléand, reprising his role from the movies), the local police inspector. Juliette (Delphine Chanéac) is the mystery woman who’s surveilling Frank before drifting into a relationship with him.
And here’s the thing: Transporter is, for the most part, very, very dumb. Plot and character logic can be tenuous to non-existent. Originality is not prized. Frank is an “anti-hero with a heart of gold.” Dieter is an automotive genius, but is hapless in all other aspects of life. Tarconi is aware of the unsavory aspects of Frank’s job, but also knows he’s a decent guy who will “do the right thing.” Juliette’s arc is written so obscurely that viewers have zero idea what her deal is until the season’s final episode. Guest characters often are paper-thin and played very broadly. Episode plots range from “unlikely” to “you’ve got to be kidding me.” It’s not brilliant TV.
As a piece of undemanding TV candy, Transporter is not without its charms. Vance is a good leading man who makes as much of this nonsense as is possible. He gives Frank a roguish spark that’s a little more animated than the comprehensive deadpan that Statham deployed for the movies. He’s big and nimble, so he comes across as convincing in an action hero role.
Transporter features some truly impressive visuals. The actions zips along, even when it makes no sense (which is often). The stunt driving is first rate and the fight choreography is inventive and entertaining. It’s sleek and colorful, with some appealing mood lighting. The dialogue isn’t deft, but Vance gives his line readings enough of a wink to wring some entertainment out of it. It scares up a rough ‘70s-esque charm.
An international co-production originally intended for Cinemax in the U.S., Transporter is not all ages. It features some minor nudity, but most of the sex takes place off-screen. There’s a healthy flow of f-bombs and other crude language. Fistfights and gun battles abound, but the violence is cartoonish and rarely gory.
This is also not the destination for well-crafted, empowered female characters. Frank gets to play “White Knight” quite a bit. Carla is mostly smart and resourceful, but even she needs a rescue from Frank by season’s end. Other spunky, adventurous women cross Frank’s path, but pretty much all of them wind up propositioning him. Shows like Transporter put the Bechdel Test on life support.
Transporter is TV junk food. In the era of “Peak TV” it’s not a priority. But when you need to zone out with something colorful and undemanding, featuring well-shot fights and car chases against beautiful international locales, you could do worse.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on January 7, 2016.