There's something to be said for a movie series that is fully evolving as the sequel numbers grow. Something that the Transporter series has consistently surprised me with. The first Transporter was an interesting action-driving movie with good, brief action-fight interludes and occasional bones of story driving the film from opening to closing credits.
The second reached an interesting pitch when the car took a back seat to on-foot action, which contained a lot of fight scenes, story-driven explosion/adventure, with occasional scenes of driving and humor to break up the flow nicely into producing a fine action film with a good level of character-use, placement, and non-stop action.
The third in the series, was something entirely different. And while altogether not terribly unappealing, was something very different from the first two. Although, because it was so different, it didn't feel right. It was like someone had taken the world of the first two films, but removed the atmosphere. A sort of "Transporter 3: A Fanfiction Experience."
But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.
The story, bare-bones and spoiler-light, finds our rule-centric driver Frank Martin caught in a highly unusual job that has him confined to his car, and up to his neck in trouble. With him is a strange girl who has no answers, and is an enigma. Frank must conflict with himself in completing a job he does not wish to do, or dying.
The entire film does a good job of graying the lines between traditional roles of Protag/Villain/Victim, and reminds us that the world isn't just unstoppably strong and completely defenseless. Which is definitely something more movies could learn from, and was a welcome change from the classic stereotropes too often found in recent cinema.
The fight scenes, as few of them as there were, maintained the level of quality of the first two films. The camera work wasn't terribly shaky or the infamous too-close angles that modern films have really shot for recently. All of the events were clear, and hard-hitting, and intense.
Although, much like the last movies, expected too much suspension of disbelief. Frank, as supreme lord demi-God, worries not about paltry as human endurance and destructibility. Frank, despite being thrown through a brick wall and hammered into the ground, never lets up. As such, being at 100% fighting ability even after being hammered around is rather anti-climactic for the audience, as the fight is decided long before the first punch is thrown. Sometimes, it's fun to watch the protagonist have trouble, but that never happens in Transporter 3.
The car scenes are also an exercise in Frank just being better than everyone else on the road. Which was only made worse by the fact that the driving itself was often uninspired at best, or uninteresting at worst. So the biggest call for the movie, namely the driving, didn't really match expectations.
Instead, there was a lot of expectations I had going into this movie that simply were not fulfilled. Especially several scenes where I saw something cliched or stereotypical happening, and thought back to the hero/villain/victim creativity, and thought "Something cool is about to happen instead of falling on the cliche." Yet, every time, I was unpleasantly surprised to find the envelope went unpushed, and the cliche reigned supreme.
And the constant action-based undertone that was running throughout the first and second of the series was blisslessly absent in the third.
Go see it. Despite my complaints, it does more right than wrong, but otherwise doesn't feel like a Transporter movie. It would've worked better in a universe where not so much was previously established. The previous "fan fiction" sentiment was an oddly accurate description. It's not entirely wrong, but it's certainly not canon, and it's very different from the roots.