For every Taxi, Taken or Lucy, Luc Besson’s production company EuropaCorp is equally guilty of underwhelming fare like Colombiana and Brick Mansions. After seeing the Taken and Taxi franchises run almost to the ground with three films each so far, one might wonder how much gas is left in the tank for the Transporter franchise after three films and a TV series, especially when the original trilogy was no great shakes in the first place, second-tier EuropaCorp fare at best.
That, however, is the saving grace for this reboot, as it doesn’t have too much to live up to. All that fans of the original films expect are cool car chases, cool fight scenes, and some gruff one-liners from the lead character Frank Martin.
Replacing Jason Statham in the already somewhat iconic role of Frank (I can’t believe I even wrote that!) is Ed Skrein, last seen as Daario Naharis in Game Of Thrones and soon to be seen as Ajax in Deadpool, Skrein acquits himself surprisingly well given the tough and wisecracking pair of shoes he has to fill, although he does much better in the tough department than the wisecracking one.
As always, Frank only has three rules when taking a deal to transport something. No names. Never change the deal. Never open the package.
And as usual, a clever or naughty interpretation of his rules will land him in a spot of bother. This reboot makes it even more personal as it introduces a new character – his dad Frank Sr (wonderfully played by Ray Stevenson), who keeps telling everyone that he’s an Evian sales rep when all the signs point to him being a spy before his recent retirement.
The movie’s plot, if we can call it that, hangs on a comeuppance being planned by four girls forced into prostitution by the movie’s villain Karasov (Radivoje Bukvic) and his Russian gangsters, who are seen at the movie’s beginning taking over the prostitution racket in the French Riviera 15 years earlier.
The girls, led by Anna (Loan Chabanol), concoct a complicated plan – that kind that can only ever work in movies – and hire Frank as the getaway driver for their first bank job. He gets even more involved when he finds out that they’ve kidnapped and poisoned Frank Sr, and our Transporter must do more work for them in exchange for the antidote.
Those expecting a great plot from a Transporter movie are, however, missing the point. Like Frank, the movies also have three rules – car chases, fights, banter – and this one again duly serves up all three, to varying degrees of success. The car chases are more or less of the same quality as the previous movies, shot without much personality but with enough kinetic energy to make them exciting, though never approaching the glorious heights of The French Connection, Bullitt, the more recent Drive or even Fast Five. The most memorable one is a car chase that goes from an airport runway into the airport itself!
The fights are an altogether different story as Skrein exhibits an impressive array of hand-to-hand combat skills in scenes that wouldn’t look too out of place in a Hong Kong fight flick.
A brawl between Frank and four guys in a small locked room is downright brutal, and the choreography makes clever use of a rope, which Frank uses to defeat his opponents. If that isn’t enough of a creative highlight, the movie then gives us another beautifully choreographed fight scene in which Frank uses mailboxes – yes, mailboxes – to get out of a tricky situation.
Having proven himself equal to the task where the action is concerned, Skrein unfortunately isn’t as much fun as Statham when it comes to the one-liners, even with Frank Sr as a verbal sparring partner. But that could just be a case of Statham being a hidden comic talent, as evidenced by his riotous turn in Spy, rather than a knock on Skrein’s acting abilities.
A decent and fun enough watch to probably not make this a franchise killer of Fantastic Four proportions. Besson might even get his wish to kick off a new Transporter trilogy with this one.
The Transporter Refueled
Director: Camille Delamarre
Cast: Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Loan Chabanol, Gabriella Wright, Radivoje Bukvic, Noemie Lenoir