The Transporter Refueled, a reignition of the franchise that turned Jason Statham into a global star, feels less like an action movie and more like a checklist for an action movie, a generic run-through of every trick and trope of the past three decades jammed into 90 minutes.
Exotic South of France locale? Check. Evil Eastern European villain? Check. Hot European car? Check. Four leggy femme fatales? Quadruple check.
All of that would matter less if the star — Ed Skrein (Game of Thrones, the upcoming Deadpool), who’s taking over Statham’s head-slamming Frank Martin character — had more personality or his predecessor’s limber yet aggressive physical presence. Or, if the script — co-written by French action-movie icon Luc Besson, who also produced — had even a whisper of smarts, surprise or a sense of humor. Or, if director Camille Delamarre (Brick Mansions) hadn’t decided to turn his film into one long commercial for the Audi S8.
As fans of the previous three films know, a transporter is someone who gets dangerous cargo from point A to point B, no questions asked, for a high fee. This time around, Martin is hired to take Anna (Loan Chabanol) on a mission of revenge against her former employer, the snarling Russian pimp/mobster Karasov (Radivoje Bukvic). To make sure Martin plays along, she and her girl gang have kidnapped, and perhaps even poisoned, his dad (Ray Stevenson).
The action and car chase sequences all seem cut-and-pasted from other, better movies, a situation made even more damning by Transporter coming out in the wake of Furious 7, Mad Max: Fury Road and Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, three films that showcased pursuits executed with more style and imagination.
While the fight in a narrow corridor of file drawers is a nice touch, Skrein doesn’t wear his martial-arts persona naturally, unlike Statham. It’s almost as if you can see him counting his moves, like a dancer learning a new, difficult routine.
Though this film is meant to be just a first look at this sleek new model — Besson has two more sequels planned — action fans are going to feel as if they’re being sold a wreck masquerading as a redesign. The Transporter Refueled stalls long before getting anywhere near the finish line.
The Transporter Refueled
Director: Camille Delamarre
Cast: Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Loan Chabanol
Rated: PG-13 (sequences of violence and action, sexual material, strong language, a drug reference and thematic elements)
Running time: 96 min.