Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Camille Delamarre
Stars: Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Loan Chabanol, Gabriella Wright, Tatiana Pajkovic, Radivoje Bukvic, Wenxia Yu, Yuri Kolokolnikov.
Another week, another reboot of a defunct film franchise.
This time it is The Transporter series, which was first created by Luc Besson in 2002. Besson is the French filmmaker who makes kinetically exciting, fast paced but formulaic Eurothrillers and vapid Hollywood-style action movies like Lucy, Kiss Of The Dragon, etc. But it’s been a long time since he has made a truly great film like Leon (aka The Professional). As either director, writer or producer he seems satisfied with a string of generic action films like Taken, From Paris With Love, etc, and he has also developed a number of proteges who replicate his successful formula.
The Transporter series centred around Frank Martin a former special ops soldier who now earns a living driving goods and people for a price, and who operates by a number of hard and fast rules that were invariably broken before he got out of the driveway. It’s been seven years since we last saw Jason Statham as Martin in the underwhelming Transporter 3. In the interim the character has been played by Chris Vance in the short lived television series that ran for two years. And now stepping into Statham’s shoes is Ed Skrein, better known as Daario Naharis from the tv series Game Of Thrones.
Written by Bill Collage, Adam Cooper and Besson himself, Transporter Refueled is an undeniably fast paced but formulaic and ludicrously over the top and convoluted action film. It sees Martin mixed up with vicious Russian mobsters, who seem to be the villains du jour for most action thrillers today, ruthless people smugglers, and a group of high class prostitutes who want to escape their pimp, a nasty piece of work named Arkady Karasov (played by Radivoje Bukvic). The women have orchestrated an elaborate scheme which pits Karasov against his colleagues.
Martin also gets help from his father Frank Martin sr (Ray Stevenson, from GI Joe: Retaliation, etc), a former British spy who brings his own unique set of skills to the mission. The women murder Karasov’s accountant and steal a fortune, and they also kidnap Frank’s father to force his reluctant cooperation.
The director is former editor Camille Delamarre, a protege of Besson’s, whose previous films include Taken 2 and Brick Mansions, one of the late Paul Walker’s final films, and he maintains a fast and furious pace throughout. There are car chases, lots of action and some energetic fight sequences, including one involving filing cabinets which is staged with verve, but they are all frantically edited with that rapid style preferred by most directors that almost renders them unwatchable. There is also a spectacular sequence involving a car chase through an airport terminal.
Delamarre and his cinematographer Christophe Collette also make great use of some exotic and picturesque locations in the south of France, giving the material a glossy visual surface. There are also plenty of clunky one-liners delivered in dead pan style.
The handsome and sartorially-elegant Skrein seems miscast here. Although suitably taciturn, he doesn’t have the same charisma or physically imposing presence as Statham, one of the more credible action heroes in contemporary cinema, and he delivers a rather one dimensional performance. Given that he is also a good deal younger than Statham, one wonders why the producers didn’t opt for a sort of origins story if they were trying to reboot the franchise. Stevenson on the other hand looks like he was enjoying himself immensely amongst all the outlandish action. However, the dynamics of the father-son relationship here is nowhere near as volatile or as enjoyable as that between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery in the superb Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade.
Human trafficking was also one of the themes of the superior Taken, and was used as a plot device to kick start the action, but here the filmmakers treat a serious issue in superficial fashion. The Transporter Refueled is certainly exciting enough while on screen, but it’s the type of film that you forget about immediately upon leaving the cinema!