The series stars a highly trained, foreign-born, morally ambiguous killer who carries out his jobs with obsessive precision. One of his enemies is a long-legged, scantily clad seductress who would look equally at home on the runways of Milan or squeezing a semi-automatic weapon in each hand.
Although "Transporter 2" may not include the classic lead characters from "The Professional" or "La Femme Nikita," it often feels like it does; and if you've ever wondered who would come out alive in a "Freddy vs. Jason"-type showdown between Leon and Nikita, the film likely represents the closest you'll ever come to getting an answer.
"This character is out there," said Kate Nauta, the fashion model who makes her film debut as the cold-blooded, Nikita-like Lola. "[She's] completely off a little bit, so it was a challenge."
When Lola and her skull-bashing boyfriend, Gianni, launch a scheme to spread a fast-acting virus, they attempt to kidnap the 6-year-old son of U.S. drug czar Jefferson Billings (Matthew Modine). The only problem is, the boy is being driven around by Frank "The Transporter" Martin — not exactly your typical Volvo-driving soccer mom.
"I was like, 'Well, we'd think he'd be useless around kids,' " smiled Jason Statham, the hard-nosed leading man who memorably invented the character in 2002. "But I think he finds himself more comfortable around children than he realizes."
As fans of the genre already know, the commonality between "Nikita," "The Professional" and "The Transporter" films is more of a continuation than a coincidence: Luc Besson, the inexhaustible French filmmaker who directed those two landmark movies, also serves as producer and screenwriter for the adventures of the world's most dangerous driver not named Billy Joel.
For Statham, the chance to further explore the enigmatic character was irresistible. "You don't have to think as hard about the character because you've already established the little details that are needed. This is something we did with Luc before ... and that's part of the fun, to create the character and the little nuances that make him different than the usual guy. We didn't have to go through any of that this time."
This gave Besson time to discover another beautifully deadly woman and help launch her career, as he did for Natalie Portman and Milla Jovovich.
Being cast in the movie "sort of happened by accident," recalled Nauta, a New York-based model. "I wasn't looking to be an actress ... it fell in my lap. ... He made a phone call to [my agency] and asked of my whereabouts. He was flying through New York, so we sat down and properly introduced each other and he told me about the character and asked, 'Are you up for the challenge?' "
She absolutely was, her co-star said. "She's tougher than she looks," insisted Statham, himself a trained boxer, kickboxer and scuba diver. "She's very flexible, and she did a lot of rehearsing in the gym with us; we all went to the gym three or four times a week for the first few weeks. ... She toughened up quite quickly."
Although the sequel boasts several car chases and action sequences, they are quickly forgotten when Frank and Lola finally go toe-to-toe in a sexually charged duel to the death. "I looked at it more like a cuddle," laughed Statham. "Yeah, she's good."
While Nauta enjoyed the chance to play a classically strong Besson female, she quickly discovered the dangers of making an action movie. "Jason and I were doing a scene and a piece of scrap metal — from the explosions in the house and my guns going off — hit me in the back of my knee. Three nice pieces of metal."
"That was a nasty cut; she had a couple stitches in there," agreed Statham. "She's wearing no clothes, so it's hard to protect yourself from any kind of shrapnel that's pinging around in the room. That particular sequence, there was glass, wood and material. ... I got a piece in the wrist and pulled that out, that's expected. It would be nice if we could avoid that kind of thing, but when you're making an action movie it's par for the course."
The accident caused production to cease as Nauta recovered: "We took about three days off," she remembered. Once the film resumed, however, the actress discovered that Statham's training allowed him to go easy on her injuries without the audience being able to tell the difference. "He's very good at what he does," she said.
The same can be said for Frank Martin, a character whose driving abilities will undoubtedly cause some adrenalized moviegoers to peel out of movie theater parking lots. As Nauta and Statham would like to remind their fans, however, you shouldn't attempt these moves behind the wheel of your beat-up Ford Focus.
"I suppose I'm a decent driver," admitted Statham. "I used to drive fast when I was a kid. We always used to race each other down the streets, but you get a bit more sensible now as you get a bit older."
In "Transporter 2," the series relocates Frank from the French Mediterranean to Miami. If the fans keep demanding more, Besson and Statham may continue the theme of more sequels in different areas of the world, but one thing seems certain: The Transporter will never be seen working a job amidst the cluttered city streets of Los Angeles.
"You'd just be tooting the horn forever," he laughed. "Wouldn't ya?"
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