Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sequences of Violence and Action, Sexual Material, some Language, a Drug Reference and Thematic Elements
Directed by: Camille Delamarre
Written by: Luc Besson, Bill Collage & Adam Cooper
Starring: Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Loan Chabanol, Noemie Lenoir, Gabriella Wright & Tatjana Pajkovic
Out of all the action films from the early 2000’s, THE TRANSPORTER seemed like the least likely to get a reboot. While I may not necessarily be the biggest fan of the TRANSPORTER series, the first two films served as constant guilty pleasures throughout my junior high and high school years. My enjoyment of those first two movies was to a degree where I had enough nostalgia to be intrigued by the trailer for the latest film in this ridiculous, over-the-top and unintentionally hilarious franchise. My interest and hesitant hopes were misguided as REFUELED ignores what worked about this franchise and becomes a bloated, dreary affair. Serving as an origin story for the title hero, this reboot doesn’t entertain or excite.
Frank Martin is a former mercenary turned shady transporter. Running on a strict set of rules, Frank will transport anything for anybody as long as the deal agreed upon stays set in stone, he doesn’t know what he’s transporting, and his employer’s identity is kept anonymous. All of Frank’s rules get broken when he’s hired by a quartet of prostitutes as a getaway driver. The situation drastically changes when it’s revealed that the hookers have taken Frank’s father hostage and force our Transporter to aid them in a mission to take down a powerful Russian human trafficker. Frank finds himself kicking ass, taking names, and falling for Anna (the leader of these prostitutes turned rebels) along the way.
Much like James Bond is now played by Daniel Craig and Mad Max is now played by Tom Hardy, Frank Martin has left Jason Statham behind and replaced him with Ed Skrein (who left GAME OF THRONES to do…this?). Skrein isn’t exactly Statham. Despite how tough he tries to act, you can’t help but feel that Skrein is just a little boy trying to wear a grown man’s Statham suit. His action hero antics seem somehow more over-the-top than any other entries in TRANSPORTER franchise (which is saying something). Frank Martin was a man of few words in the original movies and Skrein talks entirely too much for his own good. It almost feels like Luc Besson is trying to take a CASINO ROYALE route in rebooting this series, by fleshing out an origin story for how Frank fully became the Transporter. However, none of it works. Throw in Ray Stevenson as Frank’s father (who at least seems to be having some fun with his role) and a bland group of sexualized heroines, then you’ve got yourself what might be the biggest step backwards for a movie series this year. Also, the villain is a boring Russian pimp who comes off like a thousand other action movie baddies who we’ve seen in recent years.
If there’s anything nice to be said about THE TRANSPORTER: REFUELED, those compliments stem from one decent action scene and slick visuals. This movie looks good. You can tell there was a budget behind the scenes. The locations are gorgeous and well-shot. That isn’t enough to keep me interested when the movie drags between action scenes and then phones in really stupid excuses for a random beat-down (e.g. Frank punches out a guy that tells him he can’t park his car). This screenplay drags between set pieces and it’s not even as if any of these set-pieces are any particularly impressive. For the most part, they come off as desperate and eye-rollingly random. Only one sequence actually did the trick for me and it involved Frank taking down a bunch of guys at the back of a night club. That sequence was the only moment in the film that combined the silliness and cool action that made the first TRANSPORTER so damn enjoyable. It certainly doesn’t help that this film feels like two hours and only clocks in at just over 90 minutes (including a pointless, useless epilogue).
I know this pun has probably been made in other reviews, but I’m still going to state the obvious. This isn’t so much of THE TRANSPORTER: REFUELED as it is THE TRANSPORTER: RUNNING ON FUMES. Ed Skrein was not a good replacement for Statham in the role of Frank Martin. He just feels all-wrong for the part. The rest of the cast is just as bland and boring as Skrein’s performance is, with the possible exception of Ray Stevenson. Save for one action scene, the car chases and fights in this movie are filled with an annoying amount of quick-editing and slow-motion that ruin any potential they might have originally had. The movie does get a couple of points for being unintentionally funny, but it’s mostly going at 10 mph when it should be speeding at over 100. Thus far, REFUELED is easily the worst action movie I’ve sat through this year…but I didn’t bother with AGENT 47. Take that as you will.