The Transporter Refueled and all the images you see in this review are owned by EuropaCorp
Directed by Camille Delamarre
So which one was it? Did Jason Statham become too expensive, or was Luc Besson too cheap to get him back? Well either way, we’ve got a brand new Transporter film in theaters with a much more affordable actor in the title role. Now this isn’t the first time the character has been portrayed by someone other than Jason Statham, what with a TV series that as far as I can tell is still being made, but instead of making a continuation of that series they decided to reboot the whole thing and have this be its own independent venture. Will they succeed in making The Transporter a household name for action films, or with this turn out to be yet another failure to revive a (presumably) beloved character on the big screen? Let’s find out!!
The movie is about The Transporter (Ed Skrein) who is a dude that handles his jobs like a pragmatic hooker. No names, no backstory, and every move is agreed upon ahead of time. While we don’t see him on a job before the plot of the movie kicks in, it’s clear that he’s a driver for whoever the hell needs his services. Politicians, celebrities, bank robbers, you name it. I wonder if he ever helped someone who committed a premeditated murder. Anyway, on top of being the best British driver in all of Europe (the movie takes place in France despite all the cars having their driver’s seat on the left side) he can also kick massive amounts of ass as he proves to us in the opening scene where a bunch of thugs try to strip his car. One question: After this dude in a suit manages to beat seven of your buddies to the curb, why do you think YOU will be the one to take him down? Sorry. I keep getting distracted here. The movie ACTUALLY begins in 1995 with a bunch of gangsters shooting up a bunch of prostitutes and pimps on a corner so that they can put their OWN working girls on that corner. That seems like A LOT of trouble to go through just for street hookers, but maybe they didn’t have escort services back then. After THAT scene, we jump ahead to the aforementioned beat down of the street thugs who piss off The Transporter which causes him to be late in picking up his dad (Ray Stevenson) who’s retiring from MI6 or whatever.
The father and son angle here actually works because we have one actor who’s always a joy to watch (Ray Stevenson) and while the other guy is doing a Jason Statham growly voice, he’s not bad here and I was never all that married to Mr. Statham as this character in the first place. I only saw the first movie and he did do a fine job in it, but this character doesn’t call for one specific actor. All seems to be going well for our friend here until he gets the call for another job. A woman wants him to pick her up as well as two packages at a specific time, but EVERYTHING goes to hell once it turns out she was lying to him and also kidnapped his father as added incentive. They’re on a spree of robberies that are targeting the gang member who back in 1995 shot up that street corner and presumably have been running the human trafficking and sex worker business in France since then. Will The Transporter be able to save his father from these women who have a grudge against this organization? Will his actions lead to irreparable consequences once the gang finds out who he is? Will this at least be better than Hitman: Agent 47!?!?
The answers to these questions will be answered… right now. Duh, duh, and yes. I mean this is no classic even for the low bar of action fodder it’s trying to reach, but it’s at least way better than that other movie. The reason it does work so well is that like Hitman: Agent 47 it does have some decent action scenes, but UNLIKE that movie it doesn’t have a stupidly overcomplicated plot. Hell, for something like this the plot is just fine. We’ve got some good guys who are trying to fuck over a whole bunch of bad guys, there’s some elaborate heist sequences, some cool driving escapes, and even some double crossing and mind games to really get one over on these gangsters. On top of that, you have the endless fountain of charisma known as Ray Stevenson who will always be the best Punisher (I can’t imagine Jon Bernthal topping his performance in Punisher: War Zone), and everyone else handles themselves quite capably. Sure The Transporter has the full luscious lips of Tom Hardy (they’re bigger than any of the ladies lips) which can is a bit distracting, but as a replacement he definitely has the physicality and just enough charm to pull off this character who admittedly doesn’t call for much of the latter.
While my problems with the movie do mostly focus on the story, this is SO much closer to what I was talking about when I said a movie can have a LIGHT plot while still not having a DUMB one. Dumb plots drag the rest of the movie down with it, while a light one knows that the majority of the film is focused on spectacle so it’s written in service of that. Does Ed Skrein get plenty of chances to kick ass? Yup! Do his clients get to show off how clever they are with their elaborate heists? Pretty much! Are the car chases ridiculous and a joy to watch! ABSOLUTELY!! So what’s not to like about this!? Well, let’s get into that. My biggest problem is how they’ve written The Transporter’s character arc in this and all the twisted ways the story has to compensate for that. From what little I can recall about the first one, the events were set in motion due to him breaking his own rule. He was to deliver a package, curiosity got the better of him, he found out the package in his trunk was a woman, and that led to the bad guys trying to hunt his sorry ass down for an hour and a half. Here? He always put in a situation where there is no choice. Can he do a mission for a couple of women who are trying to escape from an evil crime organization? Sure, but that would require him to actually want to get involved here and break his rules about keeping things as impersonal as possible. That would be an interesting aspect to explore about this character (he can give a shit when the situation calls for it) but instead the ladies are fucking with him for no adequately explained reason. First off all, the main woman in this crew (Anna played by Loan Chabanol) lies to him about those two packages which are actually two other passengers. Why? I have no idea! They don’t go into enough detail for us to assume maybe she couldn’t afford three passengers and had to try to finagle it as one passenger and two packages. If Anna knows who the fuck this guy is, she should know better than to flat out lie to him! On top of that, they kidnap his damn father and poison him with promises of an antidote once he performs a couple more jobs for them. Again, they don’t go into enough detail to show if any of this is necessary. You’re telling me you couldn’t at least ASK the guy if he will ALSO do those other things before jumping straight to kidnapping his dad!?
It ends up dragging down the ostensible leads here (the women who are after the gangsters) by making their characters pretty nasty and off putting which unfortunately they would NEED to be in order for any of their plans to sound plausible. Oh, and they tease a lesbian subplot between two of the girls but it’s literally just them making out twice. I don’t even think they talk to each other outside of when they have their tongue in each other’s mouth which is a disappointment because they could have definitely benefited from some unique characterizations. There are four of them and aside from Anna; I couldn’t tell you who was who. That said though, this is actually similar to a movie I actually fucking loved which was Mad Max Fury Road. In that movie, Max is pushed to the background and forced on this adventure by a group of women who are desperately escaping their captors and he basically has no agency in the movie because of that. Here’s where the two differ and why Mad Max is the superior film (for many other reason than just this one). While their situations are similar, Max doesn’t have a hostage he’s fighting for. In The Transporter Refueled, you never get the sense that he’s warming up to the women until WAY late in the movie because his circumstances for being around them are much more forced. Max on the other hand, while having not much choice overall, does decide that this is in fact the best course of action and agrees to follow them as long as they’re heading AWAY from the hoard chasing after them. His decision to stick by their side is one sided, but there’s more going on than “I will murder someone you care about if you don’t do what I say”. Also, there comes a point at the end of the second act where Max makes a decision to help them even though it’s no longer in his best interest. This is the clear turning point for him realizing that not everything is about his own survival and that there are reasons to actually stand up to the horrors of the new world. While I won’t say what they do in The Transporter Refueled, HIS moment of realization that there are more important things than himself is once again undercut to the point where he doesn’t have to actually make a decision. You can see that he’s struggling with the choice on what to do at that point, but instead of having this guy commit to something the movie contrives itself to FORCE him back into scenario. Once again, this guy ends up not having a real character arc and is just doing what the circumstances are forcing him to. Ugh…
So while The Transporter’s journey is fun and exciting, his character in this is dull and uninteresting. It’s pretty disappointing, but not enough to ruin the movie entirely. Is there anything else worth pointing out as bad? There’s really only one other thing that bugged me, but it’s not a huge issue that lingers throughout the film. There’s a heist scene in the middle of the film that just has some odd moments in it that ended up distracting me from what was supposed to be stylish and intense sequence. The Transporter is doing some shenanigans in the back of a club when he gets caught by a maintenance man who he dispatches with ease. Unfortunately, he runs into four janitors while trying to dispose of the unconscious body, and they proceed to wipe the floor with him. WHAT!? Why the hell does this club has four Kung-Fu masters as toilet bowl cleaners!?
The action itself is great, but the context of the scene is just confusing. Similarly, once the job is done and everyone is piled into his car to leave, their path is blocked by a bunch of goons. First of all, none of them have guns despite having to face down a fucking Audi. This seems like a pretty stupid plan, and yet it doesn’t end up biting them in the ass because The Transporter doesn’t even think to run them down with his super car! Now what he does instead is AWESOME, but is also a lot more work than just stepping on the gas. What he does is Ghost Ride the Whip only instead of dancing, he’s beating the shit out of people! Pretty cool, right? Well, the scene is undercut because the women in the car (who I will remind you have been pulling off a series of heists and have ridden with this guy before) start to freak the fuck out for no adequately explained reason! The scene is awesome, but moments like that just kept being a distraction from what I was supposed to be focusing on and it ended up hurting this section of the film.
Really, there’s not a whole lot wrong with this if you’re looking for a movie that’s just action. Sure it’s better when we get something that’s both amazing to look at AND smartly written (like the aforementioned Mad Max Fury Road) but considering how lousy things get at this time of year, it’s rather refreshing to have something that’s just fun to sit through. I don’t know how this compares to the other Transporter films considering I only saw the first one and hardly even remember it, but this is probably better than you would have expected it to be. Hell, I don’t have ANY affection for the original movies, and I was certain this would turn out to be an utter piece of shit, but clearly I was wrong about that. It’s nice to be surprised every once in a while.
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