Dog’s Movie House: New “Transporter” Running On Low Octane!
Howdy folks! It’s The Kendog!
How much you’ll like the new “Transporter: Refueled” will depend on a couple of things. First: whether or not the absence of Jason Statham is a deal breaker. Second: whether a fourth go (five, if you count the television series) at an already derivative action franchise is right up you’re alley for a night at the movies. For me, “The Transporter: Refueled” is not a total waste of time (see “Agent 47” for a prime example of this) but despite some decent action scenes and some good chemistry between newcomer Ed Skrein (Game Of Thrones) and Ray Stevenson (Thor, HBO’s Rome), this film simply serves as an exercise in action mediocrity.
“The Transporter: Refueled” starts with an unnecessary 1995-set prologue which establishes our villains as they take over the prostitution business on the French Riviera. It also introduces us to a frightened looking Anna (Loan Chabonal), a working girl who clearly doesn’t like working for her boss, a greasy looking pimp named Arkady Karasov (Radivoje Bukvic) Fast forward 15 years and now Karasov and his crew are clean-cut upper class criminals. Meanwhile, Anna and three other girls that belong to Karasov are now enacting a long gestating plot of revenge. They only need one more element: The Transporter.
Meanwhile, said Transporter, Frank Martin (Ed Skrein, matching Statham’s growling dialogue if not nearly his charisma) is picking up his father after the later retires after thirty years in the “water distribution business.” Of course things don’t remain quiet for long as Anna and her girls first hire Frank, then blackmail him into taking the job further than he normally would by kidnapping his dad, who, by the way, is also named Frank. This leads to several would-be comedy bits involving Frank Sr. addressing the Transporter as “junior.” (Sorry guys; it worked a lot better in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”)
The rest of the movie involves Anna and her gang, along with Frank, getting revenge on Karasov in a plot involving stolen money and implied double-crosses with Karasov’s associates. Of course it goes south in the final act, leading Frank to once again leap into action to save not only his father, but the four girls who have obviously become more than just a job.
The plot itself is academic and actually quite serviceable in a film of this type. It’s not trying to be a police procedural, and the screenwriters (Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, and series creator Luc Besson) are clearly more concerned with the visceral thrills of car chases and bone-crunching fight scenes than minor details such as logic or emotional depth. That said, the story moves along at an intriguing enough pace to keep fans of the series interested.
Where the movie fails, however, is in the realm of excitement. Director Camille Delamarre (Brick Mansions) has a decent technical eye but lacks the skills to bring us emotionally into the film. All of the performances seem muted somehow, with even the scenes involving the death or peril of loved ones lacking any sense of urgency. It’s a slick and polished affair, but too slick to get an invested emotional grip on.
This also informs the performances. Skrein seems like a capable actor but he’s no Statham, who himself is no Olivier. Despite the scruffy five o’clock shadow and the ripped build, Skrein comes off almost childlike as compared to his bald predecessor. The filmmakers try to give Frank more depth in this go around, but it almost all falls a bit flat. They give him a connection to the villain that is so underdeveloped one wonders why they bothered to put it in at all. Only Stevenson shows a bit of life as Frank Sr., a man who is definitely more than just a retired water salesman.
As for said villain, Karasov has got to be one of the least menacing heavies I’ve ever encountered on film. Bukvic may be able to play menacing, but you’d never know it here as he comes off as a whiny douche bag who’s always at least three steps behind. He has no real character, good or bad, and that leads to an underwhelming final fight that has all the emotional impact of the average episode of “Saved By The Bell.”
That said, all is not lost with “The Transporter: Refueled.” Although director Delamarre relies a bit too much on quick-cut editing from time to time, most of the action scenes are fluid and well shot, with some impressive stunt work by the endless line of heavies and cops Frank has to dispatch. The bank pick-up sequence, the fights at the club, and the airplane rescue are all very entertaining and well choreographed. I just wish that these scenes were connected to a better movie. For my money, this latest Transporter, despite some entertaining moments, is too much of an unnecessary retread to garner much interest. 2 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!
One final note: I was able to catch this at my favorite Sacramento movie theater: The Esquire IMAX in downtown Sacramento. If you have to see this film, this is the way to go. While Delamarre doesn’t really do much to take advantage of the format from a visual perspective, the sound is to die for, making you feel like you’re actually in the middle of all of those car chases (poorly plotted as they might be). Again, major thanks to Doug Link and his staff for creating yet another memorable movie experience even if the film doesn’t quite live up to its place of exhibition. You can get tickets directly from the Esquire by clicking here!
“The Transporter: Refueled” is Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, sexual material, some language, a drug reference and thematic elements.