Movie Review: 'The Transporter Refueled' (2015)

Just because the new “Transporter” has refueled in the title doesn’t mean it’s firing on all cylinders. This reboot is only a shadow of its predecessors. For those who remember the adrenaline pumping, suave mayhem of the first “Transporter”, “Refueled” is a bitter pill to swallow.

Without Jason Statham’s trademark performance, Louis Leterrier’s slick direction and Luc Besson’s sharp scripting; “Refueled” is a pointless rehash that’s only redeeming factor comes with realizing how special the first two films really were. If anything, director Camille Delamarre’s take on the franchise seems to be more of a send up to the television spin-off than an ode to the original movies that gave life to the brand.

Trading in the affably adversarial Inspector Tarconi (Francois Berleand) for Frank’s super spy dad (Ray Stevenson) and action for a mangled revenge plot that underwhelms at every turn, fails to be much of an upgrade.

The basic premise involves Frank (Ed Skrein) being hired by a woman (Loan Chabanol) for the usual. For some inexplicable reason she and her minions then kidnap his dad to insure he’ll go along with the remainder of their plan. This opening plot hole is only the beginning of a gaping story. 

Frank’s father is a spy who’s been the secret weapon in several historic takedowns and yet he fails to fight off kidnappers, not once but twice. How did this man make it past one mission? Despite being told that he has been poisoned and could die a horrible death, his demeanor is that of a jolly party-goer as he comments “there are worse ways to go.” The scene that should be building loads of tension concerning the fate of our hero’s father; instead smacks of an insincerity that is bizarre.

What follows is Frank trying to help the band of sex workers get vengeance on their boss, with whom he shares a past that is very poorly explored and explained. Action movies can have their low points in terms of story strength and outlandish fight sequences; here viewers are made to suffer both in especially weak form.

Frank engages in combat when he doesn’t have to (a far cry from the efficient nature of the character’s original incarnation) and his battles last way too long, losing any momentum or rhythm they begin with. Instead of being a confident fighter capable of utilizing brains and brawn as he has been previously shown to do, “Refueled” Frank can barely survive and takes one punishing beating after another before eking out a slim victory.

As horrible as Frank is, our heroine is no better. Loan Chabanol’s Anna registers with no endearing qualities. She is cold, calculating and difficult to sympathize with even in the face of a sad backstory. One of the key problems is the way in which her backstory is set up in the opening sequence.

When the villain’s new “girls” are dispersed onto the street after a bloody takeover, they appear to be in their mid-to-late twenties; so when it is revealed they were actually 12, it is a befuddling revelation. The casting of Loan Chabanol as her 12 year-old self is so clearly incongruous that it throws off the entire storyline, leaving one utterly confused and distracted from the impact the moment should have.

The casting of “Refueled” is not completely without its merits. Ray Stevenson is a scene stealer as the unflappable Frank Sr., managing to lighten the overall mood exponentially and give off an aura of fun.

Making a striking impression is Noemie Lenoir, who goes completely underused as Maissa, the sex trafficking kingpin’s right hand woman. Lenoir gives off the most fireworks of any of the film’s femmes without saying much at all and is wasted with nothing to do, except spin her wheels.

It's a move that is made all the more frustrating given the character's huge potential as a complicated villainess. Adding to the list of missed opportunities pertaining to her storyline is the absence of a showdown between her and the women she turned against, something the movie seemed to be building towards throughout its run.

Taking over the suit from Statham is an intimidating task and Ed Skrein is given very little to work with. “Refueled” Frank is written as an absolute dullard, incapable of fighting his way through a paper bag. In all actuality, he is only a supporting player to a “Transporter” ensemble that finds him playing second fiddle to pretty much everyone else on the canvas. Similar to the way “Mad Max: Fury Road” did a disservice to its title character, the script for the eponymous Transporter simply isn’t there.

The clever one-liners that showed Frank’s personality are monotonous and almost all of them have been given away in the trailer. Ridiculous fight scenes are peppered throughout. A few of Frank’s misadventures include him getting out of his car to fight guys he could have ran over, tying up a man in a lifeboat ring and crashing through the glass of a passenger seat window after leaping off of a jet ski. Not even one decent stunt manages to rise above the fray.

If you’re willing to accept the movie for the outlandish popcorn flick that it is and forget how good the first two movies in the franchise were, this latest installment won’t be a complete disappointment. Without having the context of the original movies; the lack of zealous car chases and dazzling fight sequences won’t make “Refueled” feel as much like the lemon it is. Rating: 3.5/10