It’s apparent from the very first scene that The Transporter Refueled is going to be a mess. It opens in 1995 on the French Riviera. A group of pimps and gangsters are running a street corner in plain view, hanging around the prostitutes they own because that’s what pimps and gangsters would do. Then another human trafficking gang drives up and wipes out everyone on the street. The leader of this new gang, Karasov (Radivoje Bukvic) walks up and says he owns these streets now. Just like that. They replace the prostitutes with their own young prostitutes, including 15 year old Anna, who is played by 32 year old Loan Chabanol because that looks so believable. This Russian gang also forgets to clean up the bodies. Then the film fast forwards fifteen years and neither Anna or Karasov have aged.
Anna, along with three of her fellow prostitutes, decides to hire a transporter to help them get revenge on Karasov. That transporter is none other than Frank Martin who is not played by Jason Statham because Statham wisely declined to return to the Transporter franchise. Martin is played by Ed Skrein, who unwisely left Game of Thrones to make this movie. The film also introduces us to Martin’s father, Frank (Ray Stevenson) and what we get with The Transporter Refueled is an origin story about where Frank Martin gets his rules from – his dad – and how they both are so good at killing people – they are ex- military and ex-spies. Also, don’t expect anything to be transported in this movie. It’s essentially a convoluted heist movie where the heist makes no sense and every supporting character is unbelievably stupid.
Ed Skrein really tries to make this work. Yet the odds are stacked against him because he’s trying to fill a role that was made for another actor and it shows. Skrein looks lost throughout so much of the movie. He doesn’t have the charisma of Statham and he’s also forced to recite horrible dialogue and one-liners that are ridiculously unfunny. It’s not that Skrein wouldn’t have made a good transporter in a spin off film titled The Transporter Legacy. He’s just not a good Frank Martin despite how much The Transporter Refueled, which is clearly trying to position itself as a “cooler than ever” reboot, tries to make you forget about the actor that made the previous movies work in the first place.
Now no one has ever gone to a Transporter movie expecting a good story. Nor do they go for the acting despite that the four females who are always around Martin in Refueled are really, really annoying. They struggle with the dialogue, try extremely hard to be sexy, and their bickering and screeching whenever they’re in the backseat of Martin’s car made me want to cover my ears. But even this was not the problem with The Transporter Refueled. The problem was the action scenes.
This movie was directed by Camille Delamarre, who also directed the awful Brick Mansions and edited Taken 2, Colombiana, and Transporter 3. He has proven time and time again that he has no understanding of staging or putting together a good action scene so it amazes me that he still finds work. The biggest problem with all of these movies is that the action scenes are filmed to the point where you can’t follow anything. Every punch has to be seen from three different angles before it connects with the person on the receiving end. What this leads me to believe is that the choreography was so poor and the actors have no fighting technique that the film has to mask it with choppy editing in order to make the scene exciting. The Transporter Refueled is filled with this type of action. Some stunts are just unbelievably stupid, like one scene where Martin drifts and hits five fire hydrants that are inexplicably placed in a circle around each other so that the water will take out the people chasing him. Another one, where he drives through an airport and gets away makes you wonder where is all the airport security that prevents someone from taking too much shaving cream on board?
Particularly bad though is the hand to hand combat. No one looks like they’re fighting. They look like they’re really trying not to hurt each other, and the ridiculous shaky cam mixed with the choppy editing is desperately trying to make the fight scenes look authentic. It just doesn’t work. Also, the fight scenes are awkwardly staged and filmed. One scene down a narrow hallway feels like the cameraman is trying to find a good spot to hold the camera. Another scene has random battle axes on the wall for no other reason than for the fight to have battle axes. It wants to feel like a Jet Li or Jackie Chan film where the characters use the objects in their environment to fight, but it just feels dumb.
There is a difference between good dumb movies and bad dumb movies. The Transporter and Transporter 2 are good dumb movies. This is because while the action is illogical and the plot filled with holes, these films take care in staging their action scenes with interesting ways to film them, not to mention the charisma of Jason Statham actually fighting with stunt people allows the audience to have a lot of fun. Transporter 3 and especially The Transporter Refueled are bad dumb movies. They are lazily put together, try too hard to make really bad dialogue and poor acting come off as funny, and have nothing to remotely excite their audience. No one wanted a Transporter reboot, especially not this Transporter reboot. Although now I really want an Audi. Thanks product placement.