2015 / Director. Camille Delamarre.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Out with Jason Statham and in with Ed Skrein. That’s like taking away a kids chocolate ice cream and handing him vanilla. It’s still a nice treat, but it’s not nearly as delicious. And that basically sums up TRANSPORTER REFUELED.
Without any direct references to the first three films, this new instalment continues the exploits of Frank Martin, a former special forces operative who now uses his skills as a transport driver. With the difference in age between Statham and Skrein it is uncertain as to whether this is supposed to be a sequel or a prequel, however it doesn't really matter either way. When Frank is asked to transport a woman and her two ‘packages’ he finds himself caught up in a dangerous plot of revenge against the leaders of several prostitution networks.
I am a sucker for almost anything that Luc Besson writes and produces (probably more than the films he directs) and I was a big fan of the first two TRANSPORTER movies. But I wasn't as enamoured with the third one and felt a disconnection from the original. This new reboot movie looks like the TRANSPORTER but it feels even farther removed than that third one.
With Ed Skein still a relatively unknown player in the film biz the only hint of star power in the movie lies with Ray Stevenson, who plays Frank’s father. Stevenson brings a heap of charisma to the screen, which is sorely needed to compensate for Skein’s stoic and uninspired performance. He is certainly no Statham when it comes to magnetism and, were it not for his aptitude with the action, TRANSPORTER REFUELLED would have easily qualified for a direct-to-video release.
And so yes, there’s the action. It’s well handled and easily makes up for a lot of the film’s shortcomings. The story moves at a break-neck pace and rarely slows down to catch its breath. The set-ups are well conceived and mostly creative, and they’re kinetic enough to hold the viewer’s attention. Where the film felt removed from the previous instalments is in its diversions. The action leaves the road and goes off on a bizarre 007 direction, where jet-skis and cliff-top combat heightens the absurdity. By the time the final act was wrapping things up, I was well and truly ready to go home. The film would have benefited from losing 10-15 minutes of its running time and could have done without the multiple endings.
TRANSPORTER REFUELED is the kick-start to a whole new Frank Martin trilogy and that’s where it struggles. It could have been an exciting stand-alone movie to launch an all-new action legacy. I suspect that falling back on a popular property like TRANSPORTER will be a challenge for a lot of fans… particularly Statham fans, and it may have earned more respect with its own identity.
This is a movie that was good fun but could have been great fun…. Vanilla VS Chocolate.