The Transporter: Refueled contains the single most redundant moment I’ve ever seen committed to film.
Arkady (Radivoje Bukvic), a Russian gangster and whoremaster, is watching security video of a bank robbery. His lover Maissa (Noemie Lenoir) stands next to him. We see the robbery as they see it: three thin, young, model-types sporting sunglasses and blonde wigs sticking up a banker in order to clear out a safety deposit box.
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Not trusting the audience to understand what it has just seen, the script instructs Maissa to say, "They all look exactly the same." And, in case you haven’t yet gotten what they’re trying to convey, Maissa immediately follows that bit of exposition with: "You cannot tell them apart."
The same piece of information has been delivered to audiences three times in the span of about 10 seconds. I’m no fancy pants Hollywood big shot screenwriter, mind you, but even I know that this is lazy writing.
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. The Transporter: Refueled is, after all, a reboot of a trilogy that wrapped up a scant seven years ago, a film that hits theaters even as Transporter: The Series airs on TNT. Does the world really need three incarnations of the same character in such short order?
Ed Skrein steps into the shoes of Frank Martin, the titular vehicular guru. An ex-special forces agent, Frank has three rules: once the deal is made, it’s final; no names; and never open the package. Needless to say, Frank’s rules go out the window after his latest client—one of the three aforementioned blonde-wigged bank robbers—kidnaps his father (Ray Stevenson) and forces him to embark on a series of risky heists aimed at bankrupting the previously discussed Russian whoremaster.
Needless to say, the quartet of ex-escorts trying to take down Arkady have plenty of good reasons for their crime spree— one might even be tempted to say that they have hearts of gold. Frank won’t leave them in the lurch even though they’ve violated his precious rules and put his beloved father at risk. Mayhem ensues, etc.
For a movie that focuses on the driving skills of its lead character, the chase sequences in The Transporter: Refueled are annoyingly chaotic and remarkably poorly constructed. The camera constantly cuts from close up to close up, interrupting the action to, say, zoom in on the speedometer after Frank shifts. And then these sequences are intercut with wide shots of the French Riviera in order to give us a sense of where, exactly, the action is taking place.
Skrein, stepping in for Jason Statham, has big shoes to fill. He doesn’t fill them. Whereas Statham sneers incredulously with aplomb, Skrein mostly looks petulant and tired. The ladies who hired Frank—portrayed by Loan Chabanol, Gabriella Wright, Tatiana Pajkovic, and Wenxia Yu—are required to do little more than look good in skimpy outfits: mission accomplished there, at least. I must admit to greatly enjoying Stevenson’s turn as Frank Sr.; perhaps most famous for playing the role of Titus Pullo on HBO’s Rome, Stevenson is woefully underutilized in Hollywood.
If you’re in the mood for a thriller set in a foreign country, skip The Transporter: Refueled and check out No Escape instead. If you’re up for an incoherently filmed action flick with a bunch of hot chicks, well, Refueled is probably more your speed.