From the Archives: The Transporter Refueled review

From the Archives: The Transporter Refueled review

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

Frank Martin, aka The Transporter, is supposed to be the best in the biz. Due to his ingenuity, strong fighting skills, and a strict adherence to a set of self-imposed rules, he is the go-to guy for unsavory individuals who need to discreetly ship dangerous packages. The thing is, he ALWAYS breaks the rules, beds the package (because the package is usually a scantily glad woman), and then kills his employer. How he gets referrals is beyond me. Seriously, why do people keep hiring this guy? Yet, with Jason Statham at the helm, the Transporterfilms have always managed to avoid feeling nonsensical by coasting on the charm of the star. In The Transporter Refueled, there is no Jason Statham. Without Jason Statham, there is no charm. Without charm, the film becomes nonsense.

This isn’t to say that newcomer (and Game of Thrones alum) Ed Skrein doesn’t have charisma – he does – but it’s not the right kind for this role. Statham played Frank Martin with a slightly off-kilter cool. He’s a slick, cockney bruiser who looks good in a suit, but has no problem covering himself with engine grease to slip and slide his way through a brawl. Skrein is, as lame as it sounds, too pretty for the role. He has more of a model look to him, resulting in a Frank Martin that is just too fresh out of the package to be believable. Limo driver to the stars, sure, but ex-special-ops tough guy? Absolutely not. Even so, Skrein really does make a strong case for being usable in an action format. He’s got the physicality for it, and based on his performance here, is game to crank it up to ten. In fact, I’d love to see him as a member of the Mission: Impossible team, or better yet, as a villain in just about anything. Here, however, no dice.

The story is pretty typical: Martin is hired to move- ahem, transport a package (two scantily clad women) but ends up getting more than he bargained for when his employer double crosses him, and kidnaps his dad (a fun, but wasted, Ray Stevenson) for leverage. Then a bunch of cars zip around and crash into each other, and Martin handily dispatches a large amount of henchmen. It’s precisely the gig we, the audience, have signed up for, and as long as the stunt work is choreographed well and shot with vision, who cares if it’s nothing new? Well, about that…


The action is portrayed with little to no clarity, hiding mediocre choreography behind a frequently cut shaky-cam. In the original film, the action was the focus, with the plot serving to move us as gracefully as can be expected from set-piece to set-piece. In the 2015 iteration, the film is so bogged down with excessively clunky plotting that the action seems like an afterthought, and when it is in full force, it’s either too blandly staged to evoke excitement, or too hyperkinetic to make any sense.

The real shame here is that it’s a huge missed opportunity. The market is out there (I know – I’m part of it), and recasting the lead is not necessarily a bad idea. But if you’re going to do it, do it big. Go wild. Pull out the stops. With a title like The Transporter Refueled comes the suggestion that this is going to be a hard reboot of a dying franchise; an fiery burst of new to burn up the memories of old, and as such it should be jarring, explosive, and insane. Find a star who is going to rip down the scenery. Escalate the action to huge proportions. Take the previous template, throw it in the trash, and build something better. Heck, Mad Max: Fury Road did all of these things successfully and did so from a remarkably similar set circumstances. A movie like The Transporter Refueled should either be so good that we welcome a new era for the franchise, or so bad that we gleefully watch the train-wreck burst into flames. Unfortunately, it’s just a tired version of the same old thing. Neither good nor bad. Neither exciting nor boring. Simply put: meh.

The Transporter Refueled opens in Philadelphia theaters today.

Official site.

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