Many fans of the “Transporter” series were even bigger fans of then relative newcomer Jason Statham, whose deep gravelly voice and sarcastic deadpan delivery dominated the screen. The distinctive writing style of Luc Besson (“Taken,” “Lucy”) allowed us to accept and even celebrate the preposterous action sequences.
Director Louis Letterier has moved on, Besson has taken a back seat on the “B Team” crew and this series could no longer afford Statham, For the lead role, Ed Skrein left “Game of Thrones” for his shot as the new Frank Martin. Skrein is adequate, looks sharp in his undertaker suit, and at times is believable as the former special-ops mercenary.
Not surprisingly, Skrien is no Statham. That’s not a crime, but also not a reason to spend twelve bucks or an hour and half of your time at the theater. Realizing Skrein might not carry his weight, veteran action star Ray Stevenson is added to the cast as Frank Sr. These men in black form a credible dynamic duo, but it might have been more effective to portray Stevenson as “the” transporter and introduce Skrein as the transporter-to-be.
If you think about it, the initial “Transporter” was hi-octane fun and the sequel implausibly remarkable. The third in the series was disappointing, so we hoped they’d call it a good run of mindless entertainment and move on; nope! Weighted down by skittish direction and a simplistic script (by a committee of three), “Transporter Refueled” sputters, leaks oil and can’t muster nearly the same mileage of any of its predecessors.
If you remember, Frank’s rules are to respect a man’s car, and the man will respect you. In this case, the car has been upgraded from a 12-cylinder Audi A8 to the sportier Audi S8. His rules for the car are to always wear your seat belt and never drink coffee inside. As a driver, his rules are to never change the deal, no names and never open the package. Fair enough, but all motor and no brains can only get you so far.
This story starts in 1995 on the French Riviera, then quickly advances to 15 years later, but continues to feature the gorgeous settings of Monte Carlo. A wicked Russian kingpin (is there any other kind?) is up to no good; heavily involved in human trafficking and prostitution, which was a similar plot as in the original “Transporter” (2002).
Here, several of the gorgeous women decide to revolt and then some. The final piece of their puzzle requires a fully dependable driver who won’t ask too many questions. They know just the guy. Frank’s new boss is the scheming femme-fatale, Anna (Loan Chabanol), who leads her three identically dressed allies in a bank heist. Fortunately, Frank has extensive experience with fast cars, fast driving and fast women.
Skrein attempts Statham’s stoic wit and capably executes a mix of Krav Maga and Filipino martial arts into his fight scenes. Although he does not measure up to Statham, he is light years ahead of Chris Vance from the ill-fated TV show of the same name.
Part of the fun is to suspend logic and eagerly await the ludicrous stunts, but shouldn’t an Audi S8 be able to shake a Ford Focus riding its tail? Yikes! Director Camille Delamarre wrecks dozens of cars and motorcycles in the hi-speed chase scenes. To his credit, he employs an airplane, jet-ski and yacht. Yet, we still yawned through much of the action, as it was somewhat interesting, but not really that stimulating or inspiring.
“The Transporter Refueled” is 96 minutes and rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action, sexual material and language. There were lots of hot curvy bodies in this feature. You can’t keep your eyes off of them and maybe that’s the point. Everyone has a preference, but we preferred the Audi, hands down.
It’s exhilarating to watch a car drift into the turns, but does it really have to drift into every single turn? We ask the same question about the script. Maybe the idea for this reboot was to provide a new generation with its own version of Frank Martin. If so, we think they violated the credo and did not respect the car, so we do not respect the man.
Ron’s Rating: C Leigh’s Rating: C