To say that no one asked for a Transporter reboot is putting things lightly. The franchise in which Jason Statham rose to fame hardly lit up the box office when it set off in 2002, barely crossing the 25 million dollar marker on a 21 million dollar budget. The second installment hardly fared better, scraping up 43 on 32 and by movie numero three, the second-rate action/car staple was hardly scraping by. 7 years later, we have the latest addition to the “Why In Hell Was This Rebooted?” pool in The Transporter Refueled, a near abomination of filmmaking, barely held together by flashy Audi commercial tie-ins, gratuitous sexual violence and Ray Stevenson’s equally flashy grin. At least Ray’s having some fun. We in the audience though are not privy to such leisure.
Ed Skrein then is the perfect star for the franchise. He’s the lukewarm center of this brand of unwanted cinematic ejaculate. For a guy attempting to jettison his star into the public’s peripheral perception, he couldn’t have picked a worse coming out party. If you crossed Nicholas Hoult with Jude Law in one of those “Make Our Baby” apps, you’d have something resembling Skrein, except without the roguish charm of the later or the youthful bravado of the former. He’s just…there. (Apparently because he’s no longer on Game of Thrones.)
The narrative makeup of the film is equally runny. A high-class prostitute, Anna (Loan Chabanol), turns on her uber-rich pimp, Karasov (a truly crummy Radivoje Bukvic), with the aid of three prostitute buddies and spurred on by Alexander Dummas’ seminal novel “The Three Musketeers”. The girls adorn in black dresses and spout, “All for one and one for all!” between scenes of robberies, shaking their junk and flaunting her lack of tan-lines in skimpy bikinis. Director Camille Delamarre wastes no opportunities to have the talent undress, making for scenes stuffed to the fray with booty and ta-tas.
“It’s not an Audi. It’s not even a Mazda. The Transporter Refueled is pure cinematic roadkill.”
This in itself isn’t an issue per se but the degree of sexual violence not only lying beneath but blatantly displayed on the surface is more than a trifle troubling. When Karasov establishes that Anna has double-crossed him, he foregoes the customary, “I’ll kill you!” for a much more off-putting, “I’ll rape you!” The script from Adam Cooper, Bill Collage and Luc Besson is littered with ugly instances of sexual violence of this nature, which makes the light-hearted stupidity of the film an even more difficult pill to swallow.
In terms of raw, unfiltered stupidity, The Transporter Refueled revs its engine at any and all opportunities to take the road most dumbed down. Leaving out the multiple occasions where an obligatory car chase is initiated by absolutely nothing, there’s an amazingly senseless scene in which a character is shot and quickly bleeding out. Stevenson gathers up cobwebs and sugar to fill the wound. It’s a rough patch, but it’ll do, he claims. This seems the exact mantra of the suits behind this car flick running creatively on empty.
Why any suit or moneyman ventured to save this dying franchise is beyond me. It’s not an Audi. It’s not even a Mazda. The thing is pure cinematic roadkill. The narrative is thin, poorly-imagined and ultimately ugly, the car sequences no more slick or showy than an Audi commercial, the cast disinterested and dull (save for Stevenson – he’s the best thing in it.) From scene one, the thing is bleeding out and all Delamarre can do to save it is stuff some cobwebs and sugar in its wounds.
CONCLUSION: The Transporter has two rules: don’t ask questions and always be on time. Discerning audience members are best following that first rule but would be better off showing up late (or not at all) to The Transporter Refueled.