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Friday, September 4, 2015

Movie Review: 'The Transporter Refueled'

The Transporter Refueled feels like it's run out of gas.

Review by Matt Cummings

The Transporter franchise hasn't evolved much beyond its simple action roots, doing what it knew best while elevating Actor Jason Statham into the pantheon of action heroes. Granted, the franchise has never been about stunning camerawork, glamorous locations, or deep character studies about flawed people trying to make right. It is what people expect: loud music, silly performances, and car/human stunts designed to take away from the lack of plot. Unfortunately, anything truly interesting about The Transporter Refueled gets hopelessly lost in a glorified Audi commercial, rather than a meaningful story about revenge and the driver who gets caught in the middle.

As the Transporter, Frank Martin (Ed Skrein) has gained a reputation for getting any package (human or otherwise) to its destination, regardless of the danger. But when his ex-MI6 father (Ray Stevenson) shows up for a little bonding time, their lives are thrown into danger when the former prostitute Anna (Loan Chabanol) signs up for Frank's special line of services. Determined to defeat her former pimp by robbing him and his associates, Anna brings along a sexy threesome of prostitutes, who kidnap Frank's dad in exchange for the Transporter's continued help. But soon, Frank realizes that he's caught in a dangerous chess game, unsure if Anna represents friend or foe. As Anna's final plan comes into play, Frank must use his skills as both transporter and former black-ops to defeat her growing list of enemies, as she seeks a permanent exit from the life that has already claimed so much.

There are some genuinely interesting themes percolating below the surface here: three females out for monetary revenge for the injustices forced upon them, a father and son who don't understand one another, and the demons of a man's past returning to haunt him. But sadly none of these are ever given the credit they deserve. Delamarre is too focused on tight ass shots of dancers in lingerie to see the quality tale he could have told. He's worried that if he stops for a moment and gives his under-performing cast a moment to shine, the audience will fall asleep. The stunts do little to keep us awake, looking as practiced and unrealistic as early episodes of Agents of SHIELD, with Skrein not given enough time between blows to prove that he can fight. There's literally 20-30 cuts within a sequence, each of which force you to focus someplace else before forcing another dizzying angle down our throats.

Skrein is a step down from Statham, both in terms of his physicality but also in his inability to do anything more than scowl when Anna throws another curveball at him. Honestly, it's hard to find a replacement for Statham, but I have to think someone else could have slid in to the role far better than Skrein. Chabanol is serviceable as Anna, but her friends are merely not-so-good-looking stand-ins, incapable of going beyond their superficial backgrounds. Still, she does play the revenge role well enough for us to stick with it, right up until the end when a showdown with Frank ends with an unfulfilling thud. She doesn't quite sell it as well as Hannah Ware did in Hitman: Agent 47, and you all know how much we hated that one. Put those two movies together and you might have something...I can hear the royalty money already flowing in.

And then there's the car ad, disguised to look like a movie, with the entire opening sequence dedicated to an A8 that soon looks as unglamorous as the rest of Delamarre's film. As the man responsible for dumbing down the funfest District B13 into the dull Brick Mansions, Delamarre manages to make the exciting concept of a mysterious man behind the wheel into something less. But it's not all his fault, as Writers Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, and three others drop the interesting Act 1 concepts for pure violence and suggested female bisexuality. Surprisingly, Frank becomes nothing more than a secondary character among the revenge plot, a humorless man whose father couldn't be more different than his son. Luckily, Stevenson is a breath of fresh air, his James Bond aura agreeing with the ladies, although his penchant for being caught by every bad guy in the film does get a little tiresome. Without him, Skrein and Chabanol are merely boring eye candy - I never bought their chemistry, nor their forced sex scene as Stevenson takes on a much more enticing threesome. Frank seems to forget that Anna was a hooker just a few days earlier, with his booty call amounting to little more than an average day for her.

The mindless entertainment of The Transporter Refueled could have been so much more. Instead, it sticks with what it thinks works for maximum appeal, and in doing so becomes merely pedestrian and uninspired. And while it works on that most base level, any interesting story it wanted to tell gets shoved in the trunk. Perhaps it's time for the franchise to go through a full tear-down, before it wrecks what little name it has left.

The Transporter Refueled is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, sexual material, some language, a drug reference and thematic elements and has a runtime of 93 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.


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