Here’s the problem. In a film as bad, as crass and as clearly preposterous as this fourth installment of The Transporter is – and, oh my gosh, it really is – you’d think it would recognize its awfulness and have fun with it, but no. It plays it straight. That’s not to say you won’t laugh, but you’ll do it for reasons producer/co-writer Luc Besson didn’t quite intend.
Gone is Jason Statham. He’s replaced by Game of Thrones actor Ed Skrein who supplies not only the car but the same, low-pitched, whispery growl in that Statham styled cockney accent. He’s bland, but he’ll do. Now, ponder the following.
Skrien is thirty. His age is mentioned only because of a curious observation regarding the movie’s timeline. The film begins with an episode regarding the action of the bad guys as pimps that takes place twenty years ago in 1995, then we jump fifteen years later to 2010 which, for some unexplained reason, is where the rest of the film takes place. I guess it’s meant to be a period piece. Later we learn that Skrein’s character, driver Frank Martin, was in the same military unit as the main villain back in the day. Really? Back when? At what age did Frank don his fatigues and pick up a rifle? When he was five? Moving on.
Like almost all of Luc Besson’s curiously kinky fantasies that keep turning into films, The Transporter Refueled revolves around killer pimps, prostitutes, human trafficking, lots of guns spraying endless supplies of bullets, shiney vehicles, and French police who’re generally portrayed as clueless. As with every other Besson penned action/thriller, they’re the continental version of The Keystone Cops, but instead of running around, comically bumping into each other, it’s their cars that do the bashing, and usually to each other or to some poor innocent bystander who just happens to be in the way.
Frank is hired by Anna (Loan Chabanol) for a job. “The deal is for one passenger,” Anna explains. “You pick me up, you drop me off.” It’s that simple, though, of course, this is a Transporter movie; it’s never that simple. Anna double-crosses Frank by having his father (Ray Stevenson) kidnapped and held captive by one of her female conspirators, while two more ladies join Anna in Frank’s car. Without getting bogged in detail, basically the four women are out for revenge. They were once child sex slaves of the movies’ main bad guy (Raivoje Bukvic) and now they’re going to financially ruin him by committing a series of heists, with Frank doing the driving. Frank, of course, is not happy, but as Anna tells him, “Once you understand what we’re up to, you might even like it.” As far as I can tell, he never does.
For some reason, the four bewigged, gun-toting femme fatales have this thing about The Three Musketeers. “All for one and one for all,” they quote after one of the jobs. They even have a conversation with Frank about it’s author, Alexandre Dumas, and just in case you missed all of these literary references, there’s even a copy of the book lying around in the old warehouse where they’re keeping Frank’s dad hostage just in case someone fancies a quick read in between bank heists.
As you would expect, the fights are well choreographed and the car chases with all of those nice, shiny black vehicles are well executed in the way only expert stunt drivers could drive them. But like many over-the-top thrillers of late, the action never really excites, there’s never a feeling that martial arts expert Frank is ever in danger, it just occurs before us, and we have to go along for the ride, passive observers, while continually wondering when those four former child sex slaves now seeking revenge had time to read classic 19th century French literature.
As with just about every Luc Besson inspired work, the women are there for men to salivate over. They’re either mini-skirted, leggy hookers or mini-skirted, leggy killers. Considering those four ladies have supposed to have suffered a life harder than anyone in the real world could ever imagine since childhood, it’s amazing they still look like they could grace the cover of Cosmopolitan. At one point, one of the ladies takes a crippling bullet in the stomach during a shoot out. There’s a life or death moment when Frank’s dad has to extract the metal from her body then mop up the blood. An hour or so later that same woman is engaged in a threesome under the covers with Frank’s dad and one of the other girls. Evidently, she heals quickly. Once again, moving on.
The dialog is minimal but what there is consists of either lengthy exposition or sentences from the school of the bleeding obvious. At a certain point after a confusing climactic shootout on a boat, Frank spells out to Anna what we’ve just seen but didn’t necessarily understand. It comes out something like, “You did this knowing I’d do that, but what you didn’t know was… “ and so on, and so on. He’s like an instant Sherlock Holmes conveniently explaining after the event in a few sentences everything that previously made no sense. Perhaps there was some Sir Arthur Conan Doyle hidden under that copy of The Three Musketeers back at the warehouse and we just didn’t notice it.
The best lines, however, are both uttered by the same character. French actress Noemie Lenoir plays bad girl Maissa. When watching those revenge seeking women in matching blonde wigs on a surveillance video camera, she states, “They look exactly the same,” then adds, just in case we missed her powers of observation, “You cannot tell them apart.” Then later, when observing the same women in another video but wearing different outfits, she remarks, “They’re the same girls,” then adds, “Wearing different outfits.” Frank’s not the only Sherlock in the cast.
If you’re a fan of The Transporter movies and snarky comments from a movie reviewer are not what you want to hear, then, sorry, but The Transporter Refueled begs for snarky comments. The franchise will continue. Luc Besson has already stated that he’ll be writing a fifth and a sixth.
Luc. Please. Don’t.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 96 Minutes Overall Rating: 1 (out of 10)