Transporter Reboot Running on Empty
Somewhere in the south of France professional transporter Frank Martin (Ed Skrein) is picking up his father (Ray Stevenson) from his last day at work as an international sales representative for Evian. Granted, both men know neither of them actually does for a living what they proclaim, both far more physically adept, lethally cunning and way too good wielding firearms for that to be true. Yet their relationship, while one filled with secrets, is still surprisingly loving, each respecting and admiring the other for their commitment to duty and an ability to put the wellbeing of others above that of their own.
Anna (Loan Chabanol) is a prostitute sold into sexual slavery to Russian mobster Arkady Karasov (Radivoje Bukvic) when she was only 12-years-old. Teaming up with three of her closest coworkers and confidants, she puts into action a plan to get revenge on the monster that ruined her life over a decade prior. Knowing she’ll need help, she figures out a way to cajole Frank into joining her and her allies in their scheme, using his father as leverage hoping devotion to dear old dad will be enough to make him use his skills behind the wheel to their advantage.
The Transporter Refueled proves a number of things, not the least of which is, just because producer and cowriter Luc Besson has the ability, leverage and funds to reboot a relatively popular second-tier action franchise (one that helped make a star out of Jason Statham), that doesn’t mean he should do it. The next thing is that, even if Mad Max: Fury Road showed leaving the CGI trickery to a minimum and actually crashing cars and staging action scenes for real can pack a pretty mean, viscerally-charged punch in this day and age of computer-aided wizardry, that doesn’t mean every filmmaker out there can match George Miller directorial skills doing it.
There’s plenty more, but those two items are the chief ones I was mulling over as I exited the theatre after watching this. As happy as I am that Besson and his handpicked director Camille Delamarre (Brick Mansions) decided to try and stage the majority of their central car chases without the aid of CGI, applaud the fact they wanted to achieve a John Frankenheimer-like level of visual, fuel-injected virtuosity (think Ronin), the simple truth is that they were far from successful. There is no energy to these sequences, no passion filling the gas tanks, the sequences so lazily shot and assembled it’s almost as if those most responsible for giving them life and heft fell asleep at the wheel.
I’m actually okay with the script being so colossally silly. I mean, if you’re aiming to achieve some sort of Cannon Films 1980s vibe much in the vein of The Delta Force, Enter the Ninja or Avenging Force, narrative stupidity is par for the course. But when the characterizations are so dull, when the movie is so unconscionably bored with its own self, it’s difficult not start dwelling on the just how unashamedly dumb and vehemently unbelievable everything that’s transpiring unquestionably is.
This would theoretically be fine if the movie were so bad, so poorly put together and assembled, so campy to the point of parody, that it could on some level be unintentionally humorous. If it were the Showgirls of Euro-trash action movies than maybe we’d have something worth mulling over. Instead, what we have is an oddly competent yet undeniably comatose retread that exists for no other reason than Besson wanted it to, and as much as I admire the man and a number of the films he himself has directed (La Femme Nikita, The Professional, The Fifth Element) his taste levels as a producer and writer of B-level action flicks continues to remain as wildly uneven as ever.
Delamarre does stage a few terrific fight sequences with Skrein facing off against a number of attackers, not the least of which is an opening prologue of him dismantling a handful of thugs trying to get their hands on his pristine souped-up Audi. Even better is a second act face-off against a handful of ruffians in cramped hallway with rows of file cabinets boxing them all in tight, the heroic transporter bending and contorting his body into all sorts of positions as he attempts to extricate himself from his predicament.
None of which matters. While I liked Skrein on “Game of Thrones,” this film does him no favors, and the chances he’ll receive a similar career boost from appearing as Frank Martin as Statham achieved with his trilogy is beyond slim. As for the rest of the cast, save Stevenson (who appears to be the only one having anything resembling a good time, let alone registering a pulse) the less said about the lot of them the better. It’s as if they all collectively shared a bottle of sleeping pills before each scene began filming, the narcoleptic atmosphere so omnipresent I’m a little surprised I didn’t take a nap myself at some point during the proceedings. No, The Transporter Refueled is nothing other than a bad movie, that’s it, and to say anything more is simply a waste of time.
Film Rating: 1 (out of 4)