The Gay Action Hero is Still in the Closet

By Adam Lippe

transporter_32Since the invention of postmodernism, it has been quite easy to find homoerotic subtext in any film involving bonding between members of the same sex (Lord of the Rings), men who like to hold guns (any buddy-cop action movie from Lethal Weapon to Damon Wayans’ gun literally up Adam Sandler’s ass in Bulletproof) or women who like to hold guns and bond (Thelma and Louise). And while it sounds like fun to guess about the un-intentions of the filmmakers, it is more than a little condescending and homophobic considering the goal seems to identify that the characters are gay, and how embarrassing that must be that they don’t know what is plainly obvious. It is the new politically correct way to reveal gay panic. However, it is entirely a different story when the director tells the audience that the character is supposed to be gay, he just didn’t let the actor know about it.

Louis Leterrier, who directed Transporter 2 and co-directed the first film, stated unequivocally in an LA Times article a few years ago, that Frank Martin, the title character played by Jason Statham, is gay.

I was very afraid of doing a Steven Seagal kind of movie — very formulaic and predigested… Action fans in general are pretty homophobic. You see these tough guys who say, ‘The Transporter,’ that’s such a great movie!’ If they only knew they’re really cheering for a new kind of action hero.

Statham and writer/producer Luc Besson denied it and claimed something to the effect that Leterrier was using his imagination. However, anyone who brings that information to the table before watching Transporter 2 can’t miss it. Amidst the amusingly ridiculous action sequences (including one exceptional fight where Statham beats off multiple foes with a fire hose), the normal love interest for these types of genre films is tossed aside, as Statham rebuffs the repeated offerings. It is seems that Besson is missing his own subtext, always casting (and marrying) anorexic looking younger women who look like young boys, as the objects of lust. This list includes Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element, Anne Parillaud in La Femme Nikita, a young Natalie Portman in Leon/The Professional, and Kate Nauta in Transporter 2.

natalya-rudakova-thumb-600x400That trend continues with Natalya Rudakova in Transporter 3, a bony skeleton of a woman with a face full of freckles, whom Statham turns down in scene after scene. When they eventually kissed/had sex (in one of the least convincing embraces in the history of filmdom), the crowd of action fans who attended the free screening booed, including one guy who loudly exclaimed, “I want my money back!” Leterrier, who has already moved on to bigger and more expensive things (The Incredible Hulk), probably would have laughed, and probably been highly amused by the lengths Besson goes to un-gay his hero.

While all the usual characteristics of The Transporter series are there, idiotic decisions that forward the plot, foreign actors speaking phonetic English (the movies are all shot in France), and chases and fights that don’t just defy logic and gravity, they don’t even bother to be coherent, the dialogue starts taking on a lot of unintended meaning. “That’s a big one, don’t let him get away,” is spoken during a quiet scene of male bonding and fishing, but another f word could easily substitute for every line of dialogue and the tone wouldn’t change.

“You know I love your schnitzel,” is uttered by Statham to a male friend working on his car right before he removes his shirt to reveal a svelte body, a body which glistens as he fends off a large number of opponents in hand to hand combat.

Rudakova’s character is even less subtly battling with sexuality issues, in a lengthy monologue she discusses her distaste for sausage, and how she wants to take Statham to a restaurant so he can experience “fish like you never had.” Even the plot hinges on Rudakova’s father trying to stop her kidnap from a character who goes only by the name Johnson.

When Besson finally directly handles the issue, Rudakova offers her services and Statham says he’s not in the mood, she asks if he’s gay, to which he laughs, and says no. The fact that they do have sex is not just a miscalculation, but also it seems Statham’s character is trying to prove to himself that he can sleep with a girl, even if she looks like a pre-pubescent boy.

Transporter 2 dealt with all this while throwing together a series of action scenes so over the top that the only possible response was to laugh with it. The first film actually attempted to be a legit action film, and failed because its budget and look were closer to an early 90’s direct to video affair. The second film didn’t have more money, so it threw any sense of plot or character momentum away, in favor of fantastic stupidity.

transporter-3-2Perhaps feeling dwarfed by the no holds barred leaps of logic and the laws of physics in the recent Wanted and Statham’s own Crank (both films did not have to hold back for a PG-13 rating like the Transporter films), Transporter 3 only faintly attempts to be as outlandish as the second entry. Mostly it just feels cheap, with sped up footage posing as car chases, and frantic editing, rendering the fights incomprehensible, as the camerawork never backs away enough to give us a sense of place. While it is true that Transporter 2 also fell into the trap of continuously avoiding explanations for how Statham gets outs of unimaginable danger, by simply cutting away, the lack of ingenuity inspires only wanting for a nap.

It appears that, for now, the gay action hero still can’t find his footing, even by clicking his heels together three times.

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By Adam Lippe

Whenever there’s a genre parody or ode to a specific era of films, such as Black Dynamite’s mocking of Blaxploitation films or Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the second half of Grindhouse, the danger is that the film might fall into the trap of either being condescending without any particular insight, or so faithful that it becomes the very flawed thing it is emulating.

Black Dynamite has nothing new to say about Blaxploitation films, it just does a decent job of copying what an inept [...]

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Featured Quote (written by me)

On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.