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‘The Transporter: Refueled’ stays on cruise control

‘The Transporter: Refueled’ stays on cruise control

Transporter Theatrical Poster

The Transporter: Refueled
Written by Adam Cooper, Bill Collage & Luc Besson
Directed by Camille Delamarre
France/China, 2015

The transporter is cool — the character Frank Martin (Ed Skrein) that is, although the film also has its moments. Frank’s dad, Frank Senior (Ray Stevenson) is so cool. The super team of vengeance-seeking former prostitutes are cool too, as are some (but not all) of the film’s villains. Everyone in this film is just so damn cool. There is nothing wrong with cool. Just the right amount of cool can make a good film feel like a great film. However, when cool is not properly rationed out, it becomes a blunt force instrument, which smashes away a movie’s emotional range resulting in flat characters and a one-dimensional tone.

Frank Martin is a former mercenary who now transports packages for those willing to pay his fees and follows his three simple rules. If any client attempts to renegotiate the terms of a deal, Frank walks. It all sounds simple enough and yet, as is always the case in a Transporter film, one of Frank’s transporting jobs doesn’t go according to plan. A well-coordinated team of high-class call girls kidnap the charming and mysterious Frank Senior in order to coerce Frank into stepping away from his rules and aiding them in their intricate revenge scheme. With his father’s life on the line, Frank joins forces with the kidnappers as they seek to liberate themselves from a local crime lord.

The villains in The Transporter: Refeuled are run of the mill, trashy European archetypes that wouldn’t be out of place in the Taken trilogy. The film’s thugs, minions, and low level generals do dirt bag things like wear heaps of gold, unbutton their shirts down to their navels, and listen to way too much EDM — they also have a boss who spends his days scheming on a yacht. The Transporter: Refueled’s bad guys are just asking for swift chops to the throat, and oh man is there plenty of throat chopping.

Transporter Refueled Ed Skrein 02

The Transporter films know their lane and they stick to it — they live and die by their action set pieces and fight choreography. This film’s worst action scenes still manage to be competent while the more inventive sequences are a joy to watch. One stand out moment involves Frank battling in a narrow corridor lined with filing cabinets on both sides. Frank turns the cabinets into projectiles, violently whipping them into his opponent’s faces. The action is equal parts brutal and hilarious and could have easily been ripped out of a Jackie Chan flick.

The Transporter franchise looks to have taken a page from The Furious movie’s style guide and doubled down on the use of hyper-stylized stunt work that extends into cartoonishness. This film doesn’t have the budget to keep up with the sheer Hollywood bombast on display in The Furious movies but still manages to hold its own. The biggest drawback to the film’s crazy set pieces is that they feel low stakes. The Transporter: Refueled tends to telegraph the craziest bits of stunt driving and the moments don’t build up a sense of tension because everyone is aware that professional cool cat Frank Martin’s Audi always lands on all fours. The same lack of drama applies to the stunts in The Furious films — we all know that Vin Diesel and The Rock are sure to walk away from every wreck — but those films compensate for predictability by  delivering superb set-pieces that utilize every last cent of their insane budgets.

Late in the film, there is a moment where the camera lingers on Frank as he buries his battered fists into a bucket of ice-water. Up until that point, Frank brushes off car crashes, dodges bullets and shakes off beatings with the nonchalance of an Avenger breaking up a slap fight. Watching Frank bow his head and slump his shoulders while doing what little he can to reduce his bodies’ wear and tear is the only time he comes off as a relatable human being. For the majority of the film, Skrein plays Frank  as a physical and emotional Terminator and the movie suffers for it. Showing the audience sides of Frank that are flawed and vulnerable would go a long way in fleshing out the character and breaking up the the film’s second and third act monotony.

Transporter Refueled Ed Skrein 01

The Transporter: Refueled is exactly the type of flawed but fun late summer action movie that pops up like clockwork each year around early September. The action is solid but the majority of the cast lacks charisma. The film explodes out of the gates with an exhilarating first 20-minutes which is counterbalanced by a generic third act (capped off by a cliché climax). The Transporter: Refueled is an inoffensive entry into The Transporter movie universe that should entertain old school Transporter fans while also serving as an ideal entry point into the franchise for a new audience.