Another week, another reboot of a defunct film franchise.
This time it is The Transporter series, which was first created by Luc Besson in 2002. Besson is the French filmmaker who makes kinetically exciting, fast paced but formulaic Euro thrillers and vapid Hollywood-style action movies like Lucy, Kiss Of The Dragon, etc. But it’s been a long time since he has made a truly great film like Leon (aka The Professional). As either director, writer or producer he seems satisfied with a string of action films like Taken and From Paris With Love and he has also developed a number of proteges who replicate his successful formula.
The Transporter series centred around Frank Martin an efficient driver who drove goods and people for a price, and who operated by a number of hard and fast rules that were invariably broken before he got out of the driveway. It’s been seven years since we last saw Jason Statham as Martin in Transporter 3. In the interim the character has been played by Chris Vance in the short lived television series that ran for two years. And now stepping into Statham’s shoes is Ed Skrein, from TV series Game of Thrones.
Written by Bill Collage, Adam Cooper and Besson himself, Transporter Refueled is an undeniably fast paced but formulaic and ludicrously over the top and convoluted action film. It sees Martin mixed up with vicious Russian mobsters, who seem to be the villains du jour for most action thrillers today, ruthless people smugglers, and a group of high class prostitutes who want to escape their pimp, a nasty piece of work named Arkady Karasov (played by Radivoje Bukvic). The women have orchestrated an elaborate scheme which pits Karasov against his colleagues. Martin also gets help from his father Frank Martin sr (Ray Stevenson), a former British spy who brings his own unique set of skills to the mission.
The director is Camille Delamarre, a protege of Besson’s, whose previous films include Taken 2 and Brick Mansions, one of the late Paul Walker’s final films, and he maintains a fast and furious pace throughout. There are car chases, lots of action and some energetic fight sequences, all staged with verve, and some clunky one-liners. There is also a spectacular sequence involving a car chase through an airport terminal. Delamarre also makes great use of some exotic and picturesque locations in the south of France.
Skrein seems miscast here, as he doesn’t have the same charisma or physically imposing presence as Statham, and he delivers a rather one dimensional performance. He’s also a good deal younger than Statham. One wonders why the producers didn’t opt for a sort of origins story if they were trying to reboot the franchise. Stevenson on the other hand looks like he was enjoying himself immensely amongst all the outlandish action.
Director: Camille Delamarre
Cast: Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Loan Chabanol, Radivoje Bukvic, Gabriella Wright, Anatole Taubman, Tatiana Pajkovic
Release date: 3 September 2015
Rating: MA 15+
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television