By: Trevor Jeffery
Class-act driver-meets-reluctant enforcer Frank Martin returns (slightly younger and prettier than before) in The Transporter Refueled to yet again move things from one place to another, such as a man’s head to the parking garage floor.
Frank (Ed Skrein) is never late – except when it’s to pick up his newly retired father (who was not a secret agent, wink wink). While sharing a meal with Frank Sr. (Ray Stevenson), Frank gets a call: a job offer to drive two packages and the woman accompanying them. Arriving at the job, Frank is surprised to see the packages are actually two additional women, and the three of them are dressed in the same garb and wig – and they just robbed a lockbox in a bank. Knowing when to be on the wrong side of the law is integral to Frank’s business, but when his contact shows him a video of his dad with a gun to his head, Frank does what he does best: cause massive amounts of vehicular and property damage. The stakes rise as Frank and Frank Sr. are extorted into helping these women take down the leaders of the prostitution ring that holds their freedom.
The Transporter Refueled is nothing if not high energy. It’s car chases, explosions, shoot outs and fight scenes, with a little bit of exposition in between. And all of it is spectacular, except maybe the exposition (but if you’re going into a Transporter film expecting a good story, then shame on you). The dazzling, fast-paced action scenes are the perfect blend of chaos and control to keep the amped-up tone without a sensory overload. It does all this without relying on gimmicky set ups: the car chases are car chases; the fights are the usual one-versus-many fights that Frank is oh-so familiar with – with the exception of one impressively choreographed scene in which Frank ghost walks his car while introducing his foot to various faces.
The in-between bits are slightly above the low-set bar of modern action movies. The father-son relationship is a fun addition, though Skrein’s stone-faced performance leaves you waiting for an observable emotional connection between the two that never comes – Stevenson and Skrein, as good as they are individually, lack chemistry in their scenes together. The supporting characters aren’t fleshed out beyond the reasons for their mission (and not shockingly, no one behind the scenes realized that an emotional and sad back-story doesn’t necessarily mean depth). The notably terrible inclusion is the character that appears alongside the villain with no purpose other than to state the glaringly obvious, as though she were there to provide Descriptive Video Service.
Ed Skrein – taking over for the legend when it comes to aloof and violent chauffeurs, Jason Statham – fills the role of Frank Martin like it’s his own. Statham was the Transporter franchise, and it looks like Skrein has what it takes to Roger Moore his way into the canon. In all fairness, Skrein is probably just doing his best Statham impression (he’s got the muted East London tough-guy whisper-talking down), but there’s not much more to the Frank Martin character than a pressed suit and a five o’clock shadow.
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