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Transporter Refueled, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Refueled but not high-octane."
2 stars

The 2015 summer movie season didn't quite start with "Mad Max: Fury Road", but third sequels to car chase-oriented movies that have a recast title character teaming up with a highly-competent leading lady to get a handful of her friends out of sexual servitude is an oddly specific thing to have at both ends of the period. Looked at it that way, "The Transporter Refueled" is a massive letdown, but even comparing it to the previous films in the series, it's rather unimpressive.

This time around, Frank Martin (Ed Skrein) is hired by Anna (Loan Chabanol), whom we've been introduced to as a prostitute long in the employ of Arkady Karasov (Radivoje Bukvic), a former special-ops type who took over that part of Nice's crime world fifteen years ago, in 1995, but who clearly has more planned, including having Frank's recently retired spy father (Ray Stevenson) taken hostage in order to keep him motivated.

For a guy who was supposedly some sort of fantastic spy back in the day, Frank Senior gets kidnapped pretty easily, which makes him an odd addition to a series that already had an older foil in Inspector Tarconi, who has been replaced with a younger, more hostile model (Samir Guesmi). For a franchise that works in large part because it requires almost no detail, Luc Besson and his co-writers Adam Cooper & Bill Collage backfill both more and less than necessary: If you're going to feel the need to link Frank and Arkady with an incident that explains why Frank is no longer in the military, why keep it so vague? It also makes the fifteen-year thing weird - Frank, Arkady, and Anna all seem too young for that, and it's also a bit odd that the flashback to fifteen years ago that opens the film specifies 1995, putting the main action in 2010, making me wonder if the script has just been sitting around since the last of the Jason Statham-starring movies without even cursory updates.

Statham can't help but cast a shadow over the film; The Transporter was one of a number of mid-sized action films that Besson and company seemingly built around his stars' strengths, and it's been a bit odd to see Besson and company take these custom-built franchises and keep them going despite those who built them moving on. Fortunately, Ed Skrein brings a lot of the same strengths to the part as Statham - he looks good in a suit, is athletic enough to be a capable screen fighter, and projects both sophistication and working-class scrappiness. At times, Skrein almost seems to be doing a Statham impersonation, as is Stevenson, to an extent that is almost comedic, but without the dry delivery the original actor gave.

Skrein spends a lot of time paired with Loan Chabanol, who leads a formidable team of ladies and does a fair enough job of pushing Anna as both nervous and a fearless leader, with Tatiana Pajkovic also grabbing the spotlight. On the villains' side, Radivoje Bukvic, Yuri Kolokolnikov, and Lenn Kudrjawizki are a bit more distinct than one might expect as the Russian mobsters, although they're not terribly interesting (I do kind of suspect that Kolokolnikov could be a scene-stealer given more ambitious material, though), while Noemie Lenoir winds up in this really weird place where she seems to spend half her screentime as Arkady's dedicated second-in-command and the other half as scantily-clad eye candy. She's not alone; the heroines aren't quite so objectified but a plot that visually emphasizes that they are interchangable doesn't do them many favors.

They and director Camille Delamarre certainly prove capable where the action is concerned, and with a seven-year lay-off that's not just looking good by following known butcher Olivier Megaton. Unfortunately, there are only a couple of really memorable bits of vehicular mayhem, and even those fall somewhere between the precision of the first film and the outright insanity of the second. Neither figure into a disappointing climax, which almost looks like it plays out on a padded section of ground. There are clever bits in the film, but fight choreographer Alain Figlarz is not exactly Corey Yuen, and Delamarre never proves especially strong at matching the rhythms of action to the level of tension the audience should be feeling.

For what it is - an attempt to extend a pulpy film series without spending the kind of money that keeps its star interested - "The Transporter Refueled" isn't terrible. There's just not a whole lot of originality to it nor the kind of go-for-broke spirit that makes covering the same material a fourth time exciting. It wound up on theaters' biggest screens by default this weekend, as the summer's more ambitious things had played out and they needed something with some action, and that's why you'd go and see it, rather than anything individually noteworthy about it.

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originally posted: 09/07/15 14:32:29
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User Comments

12/12/15 mr.mike Good DVD or Netflix rental. 4 stars
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  04-Sep-2015 (PG-13)
  DVD: 08-Dec-2015

  04-Sep-2015 (15)

  04-Sep-2015 (MA)
  DVD: 08-Dec-2015

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