Generally speaking, most remakes and reboots fail to reinvigorate the original films in any way.
Not only is “The Transporter Refueled” (rebooting the “Transporter” trilogy that made actor Jason Statham into the action star he is today) unnecessary and lacking fresh or innovative ideas, its director Camille Delamarre is in such a hurry (no, make that a full sprint) to get through the brisk ninety-six minute running time and be done. There’s nothing wrong with a snappy pace, especially with action movies but if you’ve got nothing interesting going on, if the characters are paper-thin, the action sloppy and repetitive, the story dull, then why bother even making the movie to begin with? “Refueled” evaporates into thin air five seconds after the final credits role.
After a brief, superfluous opening scene in which a group Russian baddies take over the prostitution racket in Marseille, France (a feat apparently as easy and underwhelming as shooting a group of rival gangsters in front of a nightclub) we’re then introduced to our protagonist Frank (Ed Skrein). He’s former Spec Op’s now working as a transporter (via car) of any package, legal or illegal. He’s hired by a quartet of sexy prostitutes who are looking to get back at their boss (one of those Russian baddies from the opening scene). The picture zips from one scene to another without giving us a chance to fully absorb or comprehend what’s happening. As the movie goes on the twists and turns of the screenplay (by Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, and Luc Besson) become increasingly jumbled and convoluted, due mainly in part to the movie’s relentless, breakneck speed. The final twist is revealed and passed over so quickly that it’s rendered nonsensical.
I suppose the film moves swiftly to mask its utter lack of creativity and depth. The French setting is so flat and nondescript the actors might as well be performing in front of a limp cardboard set on a soundstage. The action sequences are sloppy-- shot using drab hand held camera, (by cinematographer Christophe Collette) while the editing is twitchy and disorienting, as if editor Julien Rey drank one too many double shot lattes before sitting down to work. The continuity is muddled; you often lose track of what’s going on and how each character fit into the craziness. What’s most disappointing is the sequences are uninspired. We have a run of the mill “get-away-from-the-cops” car chase, wherein about six or seven cop cars are smashed to a pulp. There are around five repetitive melee fights in which Frank gets to show off his martial art skills, (pretty much mimicking Statham’s moves from the original films) and a scene where characters have to get off a moving plane as it drives along a runway.
Making matters worse, the characters have less personality than the inanimate movie theater chair I was sitting in during the advanced screening. Frank is set up as this methodical warrior type who follows a self-imposed code of conduct. He doesn’t carry a gun or ask for names of his clients. Once a deal is struck up between the client there’s no going back on it, etc. (All of these “codes” are from the original trilogy by the way. Yet another way this movie does nothing to seperate itself from the original). However this is all just window dressing and soon enough he turns into yet another one-dimensional tough guy to carry out action movie clichés. Meanwhile, the prostitutes are interchangeable one from another. On some level it seems like the movie is aware of the shallowness and indistinguishable nature of these female characters.When they rob a bank at the beginning they all wear the same blonde wigs and skimpy black dresses (to hide their identities) and go on to spend a majority of the movie in these same identical guises. You can't tell them apart, although evenwithout the guises you still couldn't distinguish them. As for the Russian antagonists? They’re so forgettable that at one point (I’d say about fifteen minutes in) the movie feels the need to remind us they were the ones in the opening scene. Once again, the movie seems to be aware of how thin and unmemorable its characters are.
As the new Transporter, Skrein is cold, grimacing and devoid of charm. Perhaps it would have been better if he were to loosen up and have some fun with the role instead of simply doing a C grade Statham impression. The rest of the actors look as though they would rather be anywhere else, hastily reciting their lines with zero emotion or energy. Attempts at witty repartee come off awkward and forced. This is an outrageous B action movie, why is everyone so damn serious? Only Ray Stevenson as Frank’s retired spy father looks like he’s having any fun—injecting the character with a streak of smart alecky playfulness.
“Transporter Refueled” is a mess —an amalgamation of derivative, poorly shot action set pieces, wafer thin characters and a rushed, convoluted story. The producer and cowriter is Luc Besson who also produced and co-wrote the original films. Why did he feel the need to reboot his own franchise without any innovation or purpose? We’ll never know.