Starring: Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Loan Chabanol
Former special-ops mercenary Frank Martin (Skrein) lives a seemingly comfortable life as the ‘The Transporter’, delivering packages for people and asking no questions. However, his latest job finds him at the centre of a plan to take down a dangerous human trafficker and his entire operation. Finding himself as a pawn in the scheme, Frank must use his special skills and experience to survive.
Hollywood seems to only go for reboots and remakes these days, but surely a Statham-less reboot of The Transporter really is scraping the very darkest nook and crannies of the barrel?!?
Answer: Yes it is.
However as soon as one finds out that Luc Besson is involved it produces a deep sigh as this man produces shallow, vacuous products these days and has given up on making any effort or being genuinely creative. There is no denying that the Statham trilogy of films were certainly no masterpieces, but thanks to some slick action and the naturally charismatic Stath’s love of the one-liner and old-fashioned fisticuffs they were passable entertainment. There is no explanation as to whether this is a sequel or prequel, but as it is set in the present day and Ed Skrein is much younger than Statham (and has hair), it is best to assume it is just a total reboot and the original trilogy essentially didn’t exist.
I of course hate comparing films and prefer to judge individual films on their own terms, but they decided to call this The Transporter: Refuelled so it is their fault that I will do it on this occasion. The fact that the original films were so recent means we need no introduction to the character of Frank Martin and thankfully except for him explaining a few of his ground rules and the introduction of his father (Stevenson), the writer’s know there is need to offer any explanation as to who the character is. This is a good thing as after a bit of chinwag and supposedly hilarious banter with his dad, Frank gets the call and it is pretty much 96 minutes of non-stop action.
Admittedly, in terms of the plot, pace and visuals, The Transporter: Refuelled pretty much does the business as suitably vacuous entertainment. The plot is filled with clichéd and generic characters, and also contains its fair share of its own clichés and predictability, but that is not in isolation a problem, as what action film doesn’t? The action is also admittedly slick and relentless, and also at times quite creative (one scene where our protagonist uses drawers from a narrow corridor with drawer units on either side is a particular standout). Instead of boring Liam Neeson-style slow running and shooting dull ‘action’ sequences we get actual physical fighting and this is well staged, and certainly enjoyable to watch (if at times unintentionally funny).
All the initial variables of a decent action romp are there, but yet though it is most certainly watchable enough with brain switched firmly off, there is just something lacking that prevents Refuelled from being anything other than just about watchable. The main problem lies with the protagonist; relative newcomer Ed Skrein certainly looks the part in terms of physicality, but just lacks any kind of screen presence (his half-decent more recent performance in Deadpool perhaps suggests he is better at playing the bad guy). His delivery of the more serious dialogue lacks any real conviction and his delivery of the supposed comic lines is even more off in terms of both tone and timing.
It is necessary that a film of this ilk does not take itself seriously, but not only are the ‘comic’ lines dreadfully tacky and flat, both Skrein’s delivery and his lack of any chemistry with Stevenson (or indeed any character) just makes them incredibly cringe-worthy to watch.
Every action hero needs a comedy sidekick to enjoy chinwag/ banter with and this is a blatant attempt to recreate the enjoyable relationship Statham’s character had with the local police inspector. Stevenson himself is fine and proves to be entertaining viewing as he obviously enjoys himself which pretty much begs the question as to whether they casted an actor too young and inexperienced as the protagonist. Some of the best actions films have generic plots, clichéd characters and cheesy dialogue, but to work they need to give us a protagonist worth routing for, and thanks to both the lame dialogue and Skrein’s lack of screen presence, we just do not get that. Who knows who made the decision not carry on with Statham and just call this The Transporter 4, but I wish that they had. Refuelled is better than the other reboot that came out at a similar time, Hitman: Agent 47, but only just.
Yet another reboot, and predictably it has a big Statham sized hole that never even looks like being filled. The relentless pace and slick action keeps things just about watchable and entertaining, but when our protagonist isn’t beating up bad guys and we have plot or him delivering dialogue The Transporter: Refuelled often feels like it is spluttering along on sheer fumes.