You’ll see much to applaud in the B-movie action pleasures on display in “Transporter Refueled.” You can’t do much better than this for a last gasp of mindless cinematic summer enjoyment. “Transporter Refueled” is chock-a-block with breathtaking stunts, plot twists and visual treats. Just don’t think too hard about it or you might ruin the ride.
A reboot of the Luc Besson-helmed “Transporter” series, this film injects new life into the stripped-bare plot engine: There’s a transporter and he drives. No names, no questions, no negotiation. Our previous driver, Jason Statham, was a brute seemingly ripped from the streets, while the new iteration, embodied by Ed Skrein, is more male model than reformed thug.
In many ways, Statham is the superior driver to Skrein, with his own rough persona imbuing his character with a backstory. Skrein is saddled with some poorly photoshopped pictures of his old Army unit, a tenuous underworld connection, and a jolly dad (Ray Stevenson) for a personal life — which is much more than Statham’s driver ever got. And yet, why does this one seem like more of a sadistic sociopath?
His employer, Anna (Loan Chabanol) breaks all of his rules, repeatedly. She’s a prostitute seeking revenge on her pimp, with the help of a few other working girls. Frank realizes he’s taken on more than he bargained for when three bombshells in platinum wigs show up in his car.
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The film is a totally cheeky take on a modern day Bond film. There are ax fights on mega-yachts and scuba divers hacking tablets. The transporter’s tricked-up Audi is like Bond’s version of Q and his gadgets rolled up into one. Along with “Hitman: Agent 47,” the film is another commercial for Audi — the vehicle receives more slow motion loving glamour shots than any of the women in the film. Skrein uses it in increasingly inventive and insane ways throughout the film. That remote-control door sure is cool, and handy for many different things, and also, did you know you can launch it into an airport? Drive it as fast as a plane? Use it to beat up bad guys?
Frank’s employers-turned-partners, four sassy revenge-obsessed prostitutes, are the backbone of the story and give it the proper motivation. Though it’s not the best representation of women in film (apparently every woman there is a prostitute), the fact that there is more than one woman on screen doing more than just support the man is actually refreshing.
The story stretches the limits of plausibility again and again, and the silly overtakes the plot. But it’s more about taking in the spectacle than actually believing any of the proceedings. Longtime Besson collaborator Camille Delamarre takes on directing duties, and the action is clean, crisp and rapid. With gorgeous aerial photography of the French Riveria, the film looks great and feels big in scope. It’s not a film you’ll soon remember, but for 90 minutes of silly, action fun, it will hit the spot better than many of its counterparts.