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Transported by dull predictability

I wish I could take the "Transporter" movies with the same grain of entertaining salt that many of my film-critic colleagues have.

"It's just a guilty pleasure, Crizzle," they tell me, usually concluding this statement with their favorite moment from the series.

While I'm glad my potnas can derive pleasure from this action franchise, I'm finding myself getting bored with each new installment. In the latest edition, "Transporter 3," moments that should have had me excited about its awesomeness left me slack-jawed and indifferent. I was intrigued, but I was far from impressed.

Jason Statham, America's favorite balding, martial arts-trained, Cockney action star, once again returns to the driver's seat as ex-Special Forces agent turned lethal courier Frank Martin.

This time, some despicable, deranged dude (Robert Knepper, who plays some despicable, deranged dude on "Prison Break") forces him to drive from Marseilles to Odessa, taking with him a cynical, tattooed, freckle-faced Ukrainian (Natalya Rudakova), who is more valuable than she lets on. And to make sure the ride goes according to plan, Martin and the dame get fitted with wrist bracelets that will turn them into little bits if they step more than 75 feet away from the car.

While this "Transporter" isn't as god-awful as the last one -- wherein future "Incredible Hulk" director Louis Leterrier did his best (or worst) Michael Bay impression to give us a 2005 sequel that was as repellent as it was stupid -- I'm still hard-pressed to find a reason to actually care about this movie.

Graffiti artist turned director Olivier Megaton gives us exactly what a "Transporter" movie is supposed to give us: slimy bad guys out to conduct some Sinister Plot, an exotic, pencil-thin gal who's cute to look at but has all the appeal of a DMV clerk, and a cool-as-ReddiWip hero who manages to take down crews of men in a couple of Corey Yuen-choreographed fight scenes.

With Megaton following the script -- pasted together as always by producer/Joel Silver wannabe Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen -- to the letter, there's very little wiggle room for anything, you know, surprising.

The whole idea of Statham taking on a race-against-time mission that has him constantly on the go while keeping himself from teetering on the brink of death would've been an exciting perk -- if he hadn't already gone through the same thing in the much less predictable "Crank" (and, apparently, what he'll go through again in the upcoming "Crank 2: High Voltage").

If the "Transporter" movies are your bag, then more power to ya. You obviously see something I don't -- like redeeming value.

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