The Transporter Refueled (2015) / Action-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, sexual material, some language, a drug reference and thematic elements
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Loan Chabanol, Gabriella Wright, Tatiana Pajkovic, Wenxia Yu, Radivoje Bukvic, Noemie Lenoir,
Director: Camille Delamarre
Screenplay: Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Luc Besson
Review published September 7, 2015
It's the reboot few were clamoring for, at least not without Jason Statham, but action films do well enough internationally that Luc Besson trots out his tired formula flick franchise one more time with a virtually unknown new lead, Ed Skrein (Ill Manors, The Sweeney). Skrein stars as Frank Martin Jr., the legendary driver-for-hire who is the best in the business at getting things, or people, from one place to another with his high-precision Audi. His contract ties him with an ex high-price hooker named Anna (Chabanol, Third Person), who, along with three of her fellow pros in the sex-for-sale business, is looking to get revenge on Arkady Karasov (Bukvic, Run All Night), her former pimp from Russia who has cornered the market in France with his prostitution ring. Frank doesn't want to be part of this, but they've kidnapped his beloved former British secret agent father (Stevenson, Big Game), but soon, both he and dad become willing partners in trying to take Karasov's business down piece by piece. However, their target also has some strings on Frank that makes his continued efforts a risky proposition -- both for him and his father.
The Transporter Reloaded is directed by Camille Delamarre (Brick Mansions), who has worked with Besson before, including editing Transporter 3. If anything, Delamarre should stick to editing, as the only thing one can say positively about his attempt to rekindle audience fervor for this new entry is that it is slickly presented, even though it frustratingly chops up sequences where you want to actually see the stunts, and it slows down shots where you don't. It all looks like one big commercial, starting with the first shot of the Audi, in which we get to see it all parked, set aside, and beaming with sheen, as we look at its sleek design from every angle, showcasing everything but the price tag. But before this, we get a bewilderingly stupid scene supposedly set in the French Riviera of 1995 to set up the bad guys, followed by a flash-forward to "15 years later", which would make everything we see in the rest of the film set in the year 2010, despite everyone driving 2015 model vehicles and using iPhone 5's (the only phone anyone uses in the film). Do basic math, people! Its twenty years, not fifteen!
Though Statham really was the main draw for the original Transporter trilogy, if the series has to continue, Skrein is suitable, even if he doesn't come close to filling the shoes of his predecessor. He does well physically, and he definitely ahs worked out for the role, but he lacks the understated humor, charm or presence of Jason Statham to give his character some semblance of identifiable personality. But the real difference is that Statham made his films bearable to watch despite their inherent derivative awfulness, whereas Skrein is such a non-factor in the entertainment value of Transporter Refueled that it forces you to look elsewhere for entertainment value, but there's not much here to be found, save for a far more charismatic Ray Stevenson as Frank Martin Sr., an attractive bevy of beautiful-but-generic women to look at when they cavort in lingerie every few minutes while spouting out lines from Dumas' "The Three Musketeers", and some well-edited action sequences that are as slick as they are ludicrous (Martin improbably shaves the ends off of some fire hydrants with the back of his Audi in order to thwart his motorcycled pursuers, in one instance. A fist-fight in a claustrophobic hallway filled with drawers and a car chase sequence through an airport round out the only other sequences one may remember when it's all said and done).
The entire series is build on insistence that every action set-piece is more elaborate and ridiculous than then one that has come before it, so by the time this film rolls around, there's no sense of logic to any of them, merely giving us lots of noise, destruction, cut-a-second editing, and something the makers of this film think must be panache, though it is more like a complete disregard for us taking any of this seriously. In the original film, at least we liked Statham enough as an on-screen personality to root for him by default, but given no one on the screen we care a lick about in Refueled, even the action scenes become tedious after a spell.
The Transporter Refueled is a needless reboot that even series fans won't care about, and it's so bankrupt of new ideas, that you'll instantly forget it, and not just after watching it -- you'll forget it as you're actually watching it, likely finding more of entertainment thinking about where to go to dinner afterward or a host of other things you'd rather be doing. Just the title alone will tell you that the makers of this film know that the creative tank had been on 'Empty' at the time Statham left the series, and whatever they've filled their new vehicle is definitely not unleaded, as we get a leaden plot, leaden performances, and leaden delivery throughout.
©2015 Vince Leo