Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Netflix I Watched on Paternity Leave: The Transporter, The Series (designed and written for teenage boys, apparently)

Another thing that I've been spending my time on as a small person is being fed from a bottle or being held while I bounce on a pilates ball making soothing noises is Transporter: the Series.

Did you see the Luc Besson action film The Transporter with Jason Statham? (Note that I am not asking if you saw the two sequels; they were pretty crap.) It was an insubstantial but well-constructed action film where Jason Statham is a getaway driver par excellence in a tricked-out BMW doing jobs for criminals in the south of France, but he gets tasked with delivering a package that turns out to be an attractive Chinese woman in a duffel bag, and he ends up breaking his traditional non-intervention code of conduct and instead just beats on a bunch of people who really deserve it (also two cops who then get blown up by a car bomb, but Statham totally didn't know his car was going to get blown up when he stuffed the knocked-out cops in his trunk, so let's give him a pass on that).
One of the best scenes in the film Transporter is this balletically choreographed fight where Jason Statham stands on bicycle pedals in the middle of a giant oil slick and everyone else is playing slip-n-slide on the floor.
The movie had two great attributes: amazing driving sequences and some of Luc Besson's best fight sequences.

The TV show is capitalizing on the popularity of the movies, but also needs to make its money from somewhere (Canadian, French, and German TV subsidies only go so far), so it uses the Audi sports cars from the later movies as promotional consideration, as well as Fords whenever the show is shot in Canada (more on Canada later). Also for TV, intensely bald and working class-looking Jason Statham is swapped for Chris Vance, who looks like how teenage Sherlock slash-fic writers probably imagine Martin Freeman in sex scenes.
No, ladies, he is not shirtless enough. You get to see some fat, hairy British dude's not-as-tan-as-the-rest-of-him butt for like two straight minutes in one episode, but Chris Vance is rarely shirtless.
Chris Vance is good at following creative fight choreography, and he has appropriate looks of grim determination while pretending to upshift, which is really all you can ask for in a show like this.

This show was shot with a ton of Toronto film subsidy money, so if you know how to spot Canadian soundstages portraying everywhere else in the world, you will see them here. However, there are legitimately scenes shot in France and Berlin, possibly to get local content requirements high enough to be considered "local shows" in some European markets and avoid foreign (read: American) TV rebroadcasting limits, so unlike some "pretends to be NYC but shot in Vancouver" shows, there are some real locations.

So, what's the show, well, about? Basically, imagine watching someone remake the first movie in a 45 minute version. Over and over and over again. I liked this, you may not.

Frank Martin, "the Transporter," has a secret package he has to deliver. There is a problem with delivering the package. Car chases and fistfights and maybe some gunplay ensue. The package is either delivered to the good guys or not delivered to the bad guys, or maybe the package is delivered to the bad guys and Frank Martin then comes back to beat the everloving tar out of them. One of those three.

Also, there's usually a woman involved. Either she is immediately enraptured by Frank Martin's animal magnetism (he's got the Irish mythological figure Diarmuid's love spot or something, seriously) and will have sex with him on or off camera if she doesn't die during the episode, or she is someone else's girlfriend/wife who will have sex with that character on or off camera. Odds are 50/50 you will see her topless, except for Vikings' Katheryn Winnick, who managed to keep all of her clothes on and wear normal clothes (as opposed to the usual form-fitting slinky clothes) for her guest starring episode, and even managed to fight a bit. Lost Girl's Rachel Skarsten apparently did not have as good an agent, and is for her episode both gratuitously naked a bunch and basically a useless Macguffin object of a character.
This is Frank Martin's fixer/computer hacker partner. This particular bikini scene is less gratuitous than the scene where she spills red wine on her blouse and you watch her take the blouse off along with her bra to immediately spot-clean as she talks to Frank on the phone, or the episode where she's naked for a couple scenes because the guy she's having sex with turns out to be tangential to the plot of the episode; the latter being an episode which is otherwise entirely about people with their clothes on driving from Paris to Marseilles.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that this show does not feature women as actual human beings, but as occasionally topless plot points and eye candy. If this is a deal-breaker for you, then you have been forewarned.

"So what," you say, "what about the driving and the fighting, which is what The Transporter is about?"

Let's start with the driving, which is weaker. The driving is awesome on closed courses, such as off-road and in parking garages; the stunt drivers do some pretty amazing things. The show is also willing to crash some real cars in some impressive ways.

However, the show can't afford to shut down the streets of any of the cities (Nice, Marseilles, Berlin, and Toronto) it's set in, so the on-street driving scenes are mostly scenes of cars weaving back and forth jump-cut to stock footage of clutch pedals being depressed and sticks being shifted. It is lame.
Just look at this, then look at a picture of a road, then look back at this, and you'll get the idea of what the city street driving sequences are like.
On the plus side, Chris Vance's Frank Martin doesn't always drive an Audi, but will drive other cars (including a Smart car and an ATV) when necessary.

The fighting? It's pretty great. Lots of clever work with improvised items; for example there's a great fight in a lingerie store where mannequins, clothing racks, and some fabric items are put to great use. Any fight in a kitchen is going to be amazing; my favorite ended with a knockout via cutting board.

To recap what the show is about, Transporter: The Series has Chris Vance in a suit and tie either delivering or not delivering a package via an Audi. Car chase and fisticuff complications ensue, as well as occasional female nudity. If you were ever a 13-year-old boy, this will hit a little fun zone in your brain even if you find it problematic from an "is this good for culture" standpoint. That's why I keep watching.

No comments: