Movie Review: Transporter Refueled
By Ben Gruchow
September 10, 2015
For a scenario that started out with said woman being sold into prostitution and attempting to reclaim her dignity, that’s pretty embarrassing; I have a feeling it’s too much to hope for that he’s advising her to seek therapy and support instead. The other women involved don’t even get the benefit of that advice; instead, they fall for the Transporter’s father (Ray Stevenson) and are contented by mere intercourse.
Visually, the movie is spotty; there are flashes of sharp and attractive composition and blocking, but more often the atmosphere and logic of the movie’s look is cheap and small, with static camera angles and sloppy, frenetic editing befitting of a Transporter spinoff TV series but not a movie produced by the guy who once gave us The Fifth Element (and to a lesser extent Lucy).
The martial-arts sequences are dismal; Jason Statham played the original Frank Martin in the films, and his real-life martial arts experience gave the combat in the first three Transporter films a photogenic type of legitimacy (even if it was still plainly choreographed, and even if the scenes themselves were still choppy and overedited). Skrein does not appear to possess Statham’s physical skill; at no point during the proceedings does it seem like he’s doing anything other than executing some rather lethargic moves. This movie isn’t the first go-round for choreographer Alain Figlarz, but it’s a long way from Corey Yuen, who directed the first film and choreographed the martial arts in the first three.
Look, I know I said that this is really just a riff on a pulpy B-movie from the '70s, right? Shouldn’t that excuse the tedium of the dialogue, the transparency of the male characters and vapor-like mist of the female characters, the clumsily-assembled action, the otherwise anonymous framing? Were the earlier Transporter films really any better? Possibly not, but that’s sort of the point. In a cinematic environment where the spirit of pulpy action cinema can result in something like The Man from UNCLE or Furious 7 or Rogue Nation - all of which are lively, colorful, and fun to varying degrees - The Transporter Refueled seems hopelessly square and leaden. Haven’t we moved beyond this kind of thing?
It’s fitting that Statham declined to appear in this, and instead showed up earlier this summer in Spy, which took the stuffing out of everything Refueled tries to evoke with a straight face: the implausible character biography, the impossible stunts, the inner monologue, and the bad guys (Rose Byrne has done the genre the courtesy of undermining any serious attempt at an intimidating European villain for at least the next several years). He must have seen something that the filmmakers did not…or, more likely, failed to see something that the filmmakers thought they did.