Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Movie: The Transporter 2 (2005)

Luc Besson has cranking out action movies down to a science: combine French style, American production values and the Hong Kong approach to fight scenes. This latest entry is pure, dizzy fun. It moves fast; at eighty minutes, it doesn’t have an ounce of extra fat – or a brain – to slow it down.

Besson’s action fare also has a willingness to embrace over-the-top emotion. One of the biggest surprises of 2005 is UNLEASHED, aka DANNY THE DOG, with Jet Li playing a man raised by crime boss Bob Hoskins (still my choice for villain of the year) as a pit bull. Li acts up a storm in this movie, and the ending is genuinely powerful.

Besson also borrows from the Roger Corman playbook by incorporating a soupçon (he’s French, see) of political content. A hit at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival, BANLIEUE 13 is a gloss on ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK that manages to comment on the ghettoizing of immigrants across Europe while staging fight scenes that use the urban sport of parkour.

Many of these films are written by Besson’s frequent collaborator Robert Mark Kamen. 20 years ago, Kamen wrote THE KARATE KID. Now he’s at the center of one of the world’s most prolific film factories. I’d love to know how he and Besson got together and work together.

In the first TRANSPORTER, a woman prepares breakfast for star Jason Statham. Included on the menu are madeleines, the cookie that sparked Marcel Proust’s reverie.

Rosemarie, a huge Luc Besson fan, commented on the scene afterward. “You can’t just make madeleines. You need a special pan. I don’t believe an ex-Special Forces soldier in a technosuave house would have one.”

This passes for weighty conversation around Chez K.

But Besson must have heard her complaint, because in the sequel, when grizzled French cop François Berléand (the best thing about T1, shoehorned into T2) is shown cooking in Statham’s house, we clearly see that the Transporter does indeed possess his very own madeleine pan.

Which is proof that it’s always about the writing.

TV: Spaghetti West

I had a beautifully wrought post about this IFC documentary ready to go. But Ed Gorman says all that I wanted to say, only better. Every Saturday night in September, IFC is airing key films from the genre. This week: THE BIG GUNDOWN and THE GREAT SILENCE.

Post-Operation Travolta: Peter Weller

Guess the actor doesn’t need my help. According to Entertainment Weekly, he earned a master’s degree in Renaissance art history last year. Now he’s teaching at Syracuse University, appearing in documentaries on the History Channel, and about to start work on his doctorate at the age of 58, all while keeping up his acting and directing careers.

It’s official. I used to want to be Buckaroo Banzai. Now I want to be Peter Weller when I grow up.