Having never watched the original Transporter series (I hear the gasps!), I didn’t have a benchmark to compare with for Transporter: Refueled, the latest installment in this successful French franchise. Produced by famed screenwriter Luc Besson (of Fifth Element and Leon: The Professional fame), T:R replaces the lead man, Hollywood action film heavyweight Jason Statham, with a relatively new English actor called Ed Skrein.
Sticking to the original premise of earlier Transporter films, former special operations mercenary Frank Martin (Skrein) is still making a living as a driver-for-hire, transporting classified packages for questionable people.
Frank accepts a job from prostitute Anna and her accomplices, only to find that they have performed a bank robbery and are making use of him as a getaway car. He is forced to drive them and lose pursuit of the police when Anna shows him a video of Frank’s dad, who has been kidnapped by another accomplice.
In exchange for his dad’s freedom and safety, Frank agrees to help Anna in her mission to rob all the kingpins of a human trafficking cartel and bring the leader, Arkady Karasov, down. Things get a little personal.. since Karasov was once a mercenary working together with Frank.
With a relatively tame budget of 22mil (considerably lesser than many Hollywood productions), the film still manages to pull off beautiful cinematography and excellent action scenes. Shot in Monaco, the scenery is nothing less than breathtaking. Frank drives a virtually indestructible Audi S8, which crashes through an airport, knocks off a few fire hydrants and flies up a ramp into the air with not so much as a single scratch. It felt like a two-hour commercial for Audi with a story thrown in to mix things up.
That aside, Transporter: Refueled doesn’t veer from the classic, tried-and-tested action film plots – macho lead actor, fight scenes, guns, women in skimpy clothing, a Russian warlord being served due justice. Revenge is the main theme in the story, but it comes at a steep price (no spoilers, but you’ll see what I mean if you watch it!) The film also explores the (sometimes hilarious) father-and-son relationship between Frank and his dad, so it wasn’t all just guns and booty.
I’ve never heard of Skrein (an Internet search found that he was in GoT for three episodes). As replacement for Statham, he definitely had big shoes to fill. I think he delivered as well as he could, the acting is pretty good (although it feels as though he was trying too hard to look cool at times) and the fight scenes were not overdone. It doesn’t hurt that the guy is a total babe – sort of like an older, more rugged version of Nicholas Hoult.
Overall, I think T:R is your typical action film; not bad, but not extraordinary either. If you’re expecting unique, original storytelling, this is not for you. If you like guns, explosions, bad guys being beat up, Audi S8 drifting scenes, and skimpy babes, then yes – go watch Transporter: Refueled.
The film has a bad-ass soundtrack.