Frank Martin makes your average Palm Pilot-toting, time-checking, borderline obsessive-compulsive Type-A personality look sedate. The ex-Special Forces operative spends his days lounging at an idyllic sun-kissed French villa, as well as transporting packages for sundry characters, no questions asked and often at very high speeds. Three little transporting rules have kept his life luxurious and hassle-free: Never change the deal; never exchange names; and never look inside the package. These principles are Frank’s professional religion and he’s quite pious. Break one, even once, even in the tiniest way, and the deal is immediately off.
His latest job is supposed to be easy. Take a bag across country and drop it off. But a flat tire forces Frank to pull over. When he opens the trunk he notices that the bag is . . . squirming. Curiosity, the deadly enemy of rule number three, gets the best of him. What he finds inside the bag is a somewhat rumpled young woman. A kind deed from him turns into an escape attempt by her and Frank stuffs her back in to deliver her to a man known only as "Wall Street." The rest of the transport goes as planned, at least until Wall Street realizes Frank has peeked and blows his car (with Frank nearly in it) to smithereens. A smoky and very grumpy Frank proceeds to tear Wall Street’s house apart and steal a car, unaware that Lai—the young rumpled woman—has hid herself in the back. Now Frank has Wall Street’s well-armed gang after him, the suspicious police commissioner Tarconi snooping about and the company of a distressed woman he doesn’t know what to do with. See what happens when you break the rules?
positive elements: Despite his shady profession, Frank displays a caring heart from early in the film. Once he discovers Lai he buys her a soda because she’s thirsty and allows her to use the restroom when she complains. He does the same for two bound policemen. When put in positions where he must fight for his life, Frank purposely tries to disable his assailants instead of killing them. [Spoiler Warning] Lai tries to stop Wall Street’s smuggling of Asians into France via shipping trailers (the trapped people often die during transport). She also convinces Frank that its better to work for worthwhile purposes rather than just for oneself.
sexual content: After plunging in the ocean, Lai strips down to her underwear (panties and a tank top), kisses Frank and urges him to sleep with her. He resists at first, but then succumbs (audiences see a kiss and a fade-out). Later Lai makes a couple of wry sexual comments. A woman in Wall Street’s pool wears a bikini.
violent content: In the tradition of classic Hong Kong cinema, rarely a moment passes in The Transporter without some kind of violence, be it a car chase, gun battle or martial arts brawl. What separates this movie from those is its restraint. Most of the action is bloodless and, unlike similar films from the likes of John Woo, the camera tries not to show the results of gunplay. For example, in an early scene Frank refuses to transport four bank robbers since the original agreement only included three. To solve the problem the leader shoots one of his cohorts in the head, but the camera switches angles so that moviegoers don’t see the impact (a small smear of blood is left on the back window). Chop-socky punch-outs are frequent and play like deadpan versions of Jackie Chan’s intricate and highly-choreographed fight scenes. Other parts of the film include an extended car chase through the streets of Nice, a brawl with two police officers and a violent car explosion which hurls a man into a windshield. Wall Street’s goons attack Frank with fists, feet, knives, hatchets, pipes, exploding oil barrels, guns and rockets. A man is shot from behind (the audience sees a spreading dollop of blood on his shirt). Wall Street suffocates one of his men. Another crashes his car when a wrench is thrown in the face. Frank stabs an assailant in the hand with a shard of glass.
crude or profane language: About 15 profanities, most of which are the s-word (a couple of which are muffled). God’s name is misused twice, both times along with the word "d--n." One character makes a crude sexual comment and another makes an obscene gesture to police.
drug and alcohol content: A number of incidental characters smoke and drink.
conclusion: While The Transporter has a soft spot for the weak and helpless, that spot proves to be rotten as well as tender. Frank and Lai’s aims are admirable, but an "end justifies the means" attitude pervades their every action. They regularly lie to the Commissioner to cover their tracks. Lai fudges the facts about Wall Street’s scheme when first mentioning it to Frank. After being arrested, Frank rails against the police’s slowness to the Commissioner. The Commissioner snaps, "There are laws!" To which Frank retorts, "At least it doesn’t take me 12 months to get the job done."Bowing to his pragmatic "logic," the Commissioner opens his cell and urges Frank to pretend to kidnap him so he can escape the station. And let’s not forget Frank’s highly illegal job. The message? It’s summed up in the film’s promo line: "Rules are made to be broken." And that’s whether or not they’re Frank’s rules (the breaking of which nets him a lover and purpose in life) or the government’s (which yields the bad guy, something "official procedure" could never have done).Granted, this movie's script and its director go out of their way to avoid the grisly details which are so relished in other movies of this genre. But ethically pragmatic cons and constant violence put more than a little squirm into this cinematic package.