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Review: The Transporter Refueled (2015)

The Transporter Refueled (2015)

Directed by: Camille Delamarre

Premise: A reboot of the action movie series. Driver Frank Martin (Ed Skrein) finds himself involved with a group of mysterious women who are taking on an organized crime syndicate.

What Works: The supporting cast of The Transporter Refueled includes Ray Stevenson as Frank Martin’s father. Stevenson is a much better actor than this film (he is a better actor than a lot of the movies he gets cast in, for that matter) and he brings a lot of charm and wit to the role. Including Frank Martin’s father in the story is a very good idea and it is chock full of potential. Had the filmmakers retained Jason Statham in the lead role and played up the humor, this movie could have treaded upon Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade territory or at least Austin Powers: Goldmember.

What Doesn’t: The Transporter films have been a product of filmmaker Luc Besson, who has writing and producing credits on these movies and who has been the creative force behind a lot of similar films like Leon: The Professional, La Femme Nikita, Lucy, and the Taken series. But even for viewers who have been steadfast fans of Besson’s body of work, The Transporter Refueled is an incredibly lazy attempt to squeeze a few more dollars out of a franchise that was never very good to begin with. The joy of Besson’s shoot-’em-up productions has been their outrageous showmanship. Whatever the problems with these movies, the previous Transporter films had a violent, masculine energy and the filmmakers attempted to give the audience their money’s worth through over-the-top set pieces. The Transporter Refueled has none of that. All of the action sequences are routine and most of them don’t even match the set pieces of the Transporter television show. The deficiencies of the new Transporter movie are neatly encapsulated by its lead actor. Ed Skrein takes over the role of Frank Martin and all his performance does is to highlight what Jason Statham had going as a performer. Statham possesses a likable tough guy charm, the same quality that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone had in their day, and his martial arts sequences were choreographed like dance routines. Skrein has neither the charm nor the elegant fight scenes. Like the rest of the movie he is a stiff imitation of what’s come before. Skrein isn’t alone in his terrible performance. With the exception of Ray Stevenson, everybody in The Transporter Refueled is awful. The bad performances may be due to a script that requires everyone, both male and female, to play steely-eyed bad asses. There is no other kind of character in this movie and it all comes across cartoonish and stupid. Several of the bad guys appear to have their lines dubbed over either as a part of the normal ADR process or in an attempt to enhance the performances. In several instances the voice track does not match the lip movement so not only do the characters spout inane dialogue but do so out of synch. Nothing in this picture makes much sense, even for a Transporter movie. The plot is a series of unrelated events and when the movie gets to its climactic battle it is unclear what anyone is fighting for. One of the surprisingly bad parts of The Transporter Refueled is its regard for women. The story concerns several women who have been held hostage as a part of a human trafficking ring and are getting out while putting one over on their captors. The filmmakers may have intended The Transporter Refueled as a feminist piece in which captive women fight back, a la Mad Max: Fury Road, but they bungle this at every turn. The actresses don’t behave like women who’ve been through a traumatic experience and the filmmakers constantly sexualize the trafficked women by putting them in stylish sexy outfits and photographing them in an objectifying manner.

Bottom Line: The previous Transporter movies may have been cinematic junk food but The Transporter Refueled is just a piece of junk. This movie exists only as a cynical cash grab to capitalize on a franchise name. 

Episode: #559 (September 13, 2015)