The Transporter Refueled

Ed Skrein is no Jason Statham in this lax reboot of the Transporter franchise

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The Transporter Refueled

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Directed by Camille Delamarre. Starring Ed Skrein, Loan Chabanol, Radivoje Bukvic, Anatole Taubman, Gabriella Wright, Mikael Buxton, Lenn Kudrjawizki. Written by Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen.

Refueled, retooled, and rebooted: I’m not so sure the Transporter franchise required a remake, but here’s one that makes the original three films look like paragons of action filmmaking by comparison.

Those movies starred Jason Statham, and like the Taken series, returned modest profits on modest budgets. Producer-writer Luc Besson has been churning out these things by the year (see also: Brick Mansions, Colombiana, From Paris with Love), employing a mostly French-speaking crew and cast (some of whom are horribly dubbed here) and an international star or two to appeal to English-speaking audiences.

But Statham said no to this outing, and the replacement star is… Ed Skrein? You might know him as Daario Naharis in Game of Thrones – at least, for the three episodes he played that character before he was replaced.

Where Statham was lean and compact, Skrein is tall and lanky and skeletal-thin; in some of Transporter Refueled’s hand-to-hand combat scenes, he looks like a high school basketball player taking on a bunch of professional wrestlers.

But the film’s best action scene takes advantage of this: in a too-narrow office corridor, Skrein’s Frank Martin has an advantage over his beefy counterparts, and easily dispatches them by opening and closing the doors on file cabinets that flank him.

For all the other action scenes in the film – gunfights and knifefights and fistfights, chases on land, sea, and air (well, almost) including one where the titular character drives into and through a crowded airport terminal – that file cabinet takedown was the lone memorable setpiece. The rest is the usual stuff, and poorly edited, to boot.

An opening sequence in the French Riviera sets the stage for the action: in 1995, pimp Karasov (Radivoje Bukvić) rides onto a street corner, guns down the competition, and puts his own girl – the frightened, crying Anna (Loan Chabanol) – in their place. “Tell them I now run the prostitution business,” he tells a fleeing survivor.

“Fifteen years later” the next title card tells us, though the prevalence of the latest tablet computers and smartphones – which the camera lingers on for product placement purposes – suggests otherwise. Why not just call it “present day”?

In any event, after Skrein’s Transporter is introduced in the usual manner – dispatching some thugs who try to steal his car – we cut back to Karasov and entourage, now living it up on a luxury yacht.

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But because these people have different haircuts now, the film doesn’t trust us to remember who they are: incredibly, when Karasov is shown in closeup, we get a flashback to the scene from five minutes ago to remind us that this is the same person. The film repeats this technique three more times for the various members of Karasov’s crew.

The plot of the film involves Anna and some other girls taking revenge on Karasov for years of forced prostitution, and employing Frank Martin to help them do it. To ensure Martin’s loyalty, they kidnap (and poison!) his father, played by Ray Stevenson, the lone bright spot among the cast.

Action ensues, and it’s all fast and loose and colourful, densely plotted and engaging in the kind of way that requires some amount of attention be paid to understand what’s going on, but not too much or the internal logic of the film starts to collapse.

There are over-elaborate scenes that reach comedic levels, such as when Frank’s father operates on a bullet wound using vodka, perfume, sugar, and… “grab the rod from that clothes rack, tie a towel to the end, and sweep the corners of the room for as many cobwebs as you can get!”

Or when Anna links a series of hotel room towels from a pile of bodies to a sink, dowses them with gasoline, fills the sink with water, and then throws in a hair dryer. The hair dryer electrifies the sink water, which sets the towels on fire, and a flame quickly travels from the sink to the bodies. But why not just use a match?

If you’re half-asleep, or doing some housework with this film on in the background, you’ll probably enjoy what The Transporter Refueled has to offer. But for those of us trying to follow plot mechanics or character motivation or even basic logic, this is not a movie you want to delve too deep into. 

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