‘The Transporter Refueled’ is a Low-Octane Reboot

GameStop, Inc.

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It’s safe to say that if you’re entering a movie that has any affiliation with Luc Besson, you’re in for a movie that will present action without employing any kind of visual language, and will undoubtedly contain all sorts of regressive racial and gender politics. It’s not an absolute rule, but it’s generally par for the course with the prolific French filmmaker. Which brings us to The Transporter Refueled, the wholly unnecessary reboot which sees newcomer Ed Skrein take over the role of Frank Martin from Jason Statham. It’s a film that has no wit or energy in its multiple action sequences, or anywhere else for that matter. Simply put, this movie is D-U-M – dum. So dumb that it fails to earn the requisite “B.”

The film opens in 1995, along the French Riviera, Arkady Karasov (Radivoje Bukvic) has just staged a violent coup to gain control over the prostitution in the Riviera. This violent act was witnessed by Anna (Loan Chabanol), a young prostitute just sold into her new exploitative line of employment. The film then jumps ahead 15 years, placing the film’s setting in 2010 for no apparent reason at all. After showing the real star of The Transporter Refueled – the sleek Audi – over the opening credits, we’re introduced to Frank Martin (Skrein) as he takes down a bunch of thugs who want to steal his car. The brief melee makes Martin late for a meeting with his newly retired father (Ray Stevenson). The father and son duo bicker for a bit before Martin takes a job for Anna. He explains his rules – most of which are rooted in his need for plausible deniability. He then proceeds to help Anna and a few of her former colleagues in the prostitution racket (played by Gabriella Wright, Tatiana Pajkovic, and Wenxia Yu) perform a series of heists to cripple the empire built by Karasov and his cohorts (played by Noémie Lenoir, Yuri Kolokolnikov, and Lenn Kudrjawizki).

It’s hard to find anything positive to say about the half-baked idiocy of The Transporter Refueled. The direction by Camille Delamarre, who has worked as an editor on a number of Besson’s productions and previously directed Brick Mansions, has no concern for spatial relationships, something that’s incredibly important for effective action filmmaking. The script co-written by Besson, Adam Cooper, and Bill Collage just kind of bounces around between situations and always finds the dumbest, most obvious lines for its moronic characters to spout. “They all look exactly the same. You can’t tell them apart,” is how one character explains the obviousness presented on the screen. There are attempts to have double crosses, with Anna and her rogue prostitutes kidnapping Martin’s father to get their means, only all is quickly forgiven and the father is rewarded with a threesome. For some reason, the film also tries to have a contentious history between Martin and the villain, though it’s never exactly clear what the nature of their feud is.

Stepping into the leading role, Ed Skrein might be a future action star, but here he’s just aping the characteristics of Jason Statham. Speaking with a Cockney accent in a gravelly whisper doesn’t lend any of the intended weight to some of the dumbest dialogue of recent memory. It’s also confounding how much violence Martin exerts on fairly innocuous working class types, not simply just the anonymous goons. Oh yeah, and he drugs the entire population of a crowded nightclub, because it’s so easy to root for a good guy who drugs hundreds of innocent bystanders.  With the exception of Ray Stevenson as Frank Martin’s father, who injects the only life in this dopey affair, the characters are poorly sketched cartoons. The characters even heal like cartoon characters – one of the vengeful prostitutes is shot in the gut in one scene, and rollicking in the sheets in the next.

In many regards, The Transporter Refueled is very much a carbon copy of the woeful Hitman: Agent 47. Both films are really headlined by the Audis that the characters drive, and the action and plotting are so ineffective that what minor elements that do work are drowned out by the larger idiocy. The Transporter Refueled is without a doubt the dumber of the two, trying to balance its moronic moralistic approach to female empowerment while leaving its rebellious women still in need of a couple of men to save them. But, hey, if you like scenes of people transferring money using an iPad, The Transporter Refueled has enough scenes like that to meet your quota until next year. The spattering of unintentional laughter that The Transporter Refueled is able to coax remains the only saving grace of this no-stakes, low-octane action flick.

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  1. Tony Quatermass September 2, 2015 Reply

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