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Out of Gas

EuropaCorp USA
 96 Minutes
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Camille Delamarre 
Starring: Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Loan Chabanol
Transporter Refueled
There was a moment at the end of Fast & Furious 6 that drew gasps from the audience in the theater where I saw the film, followed by wild applause. It wasn’t anything that Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, or any of the rest of the Furious crew said or did. Instead, it was a cameo appearance by Jason Statham, under circumstances indicating he would be the villain in the next Furious movie. Statham is one of those actors that audiences, well, at least action film audiences, love, no matter whether he plays a hero or a heavy, and whose presence, even in a one-minute cameo, elevates the material.


So, it should have been obvious to Luc Besson and others involved in the Transporter series that trying to revive the franchise without Statham (or one of the handful of equally charismatic action stars) was doomed to failure. After all, by the time Statham appeared behind the wheel as top notch driver-for-hire Frank Martin for the last time in Transporter 3, the series was already running on fumes even with Statham. Waiting seven years and replacing him with Ed Skrein, an actor with as little star power as the sound of his name implies, results in a massive smashup.


For some reason, the screenwriters of The Transporter Refueled felt that Frank Martin’s three rules were a mantra along the line of Patrick Swayze’s rules in Road House, instead of disposable nonsense Statham recited and then promptly forgot about in the next action scene. For the record, the rules are: (1) Never change the deal, (2) No names, and (3) Never open the package. Statham’s Martin was a mercenary, pure and simple, who was a hero almost by default because the villains went far beyond the pale of “normal” thieves and mobsters. And Statham pretty much knew when he delivered those lines that they were disposable nonsense and let the audience know that he knew through his demeanor.


As a result of this decision to take Frank Martin and his rules seriously instead of as a cartoon character that enabled Statham to show off, The Transporter Refueled comes across as a ridiculously bizarre morality play, with Miller a decent guy who tries to live by his own moral code and accept only “good” jobs. One such good job turns very bad in a hurry, when his gorgeous client, Anna (Loan Chabanol) tricks Frank into serving as the getaway driver for a heist that she pulls off with a crew of equally gorgeous women. Frank and his “package,” or more precisely, “packages,” wind up barreling through the streets of Monte Carlo, as enough police cars crash behind him to bankrupt the entire principality of Monaco.


It seems that Anna and her fellow thieves are a group of hookers with a grudge against their ex-employer, a typical, brutal Eurotrash mobster named Arkady (Radivojke Bukvic) and are systematically ripping him off to gain revenge. To make sure Frank helps them with the rest of their plan, Anna kidnaps Frank’s father (Ray Stevenson), and blackmails him into taking part. Obviously, Luc Besson and his fellow screenwriters saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and envision Skrein and Stevenson as some sort of modern day Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. Unfortunately, they come across more like a modern day Abbott and Costello.


At least Stevenson, who has been stuck in far too many movies of this sort during his career, does possess a fair amount of charisma, and his Frank, Sr., winds up being a highly skilled, recently retired secret agent who winds up helping his son and the women pull off their various heists. Sadly, Stevenson exhausts Refuled’s complete store of both charisma and acting talent. Skrein in particular looks like he’s literally not big enough to fill out the tailored business suits that his character, in another homage to the Statham version of the character, wears on the job.


The movie does attempt to give Anna some realistic motivation as Arkady is a particularly vile sort of human trafficker. With the exception of Stevenson, however, the cast isn’t the slightest bit adept at making dramatic scenes credible, so the dramatic scenes merely pad Refueled’s running time. And, while Anna and her crew pull off several complex heists during the movie (raising the question of just how they acquired the expertise to do so while plying their trade for Arkady), the depiction of these robberies isn’t particularly intriguing or suspenseful.


Of course, The Transporter Refueled is about a getaway driver, so there are a number of CGI-fueled driving scenes in the movie, along with an assortment of fights as well. Skrein does manage to handle the stunt work rather well, and the second unit choreography of some of the scenes is quite good. The most interesting sequence in the movie resembles something out of an early period Jackie Chan movie, as Frank and a group of workmen at a nightclub being robbed duke it out in a five-minute fight scene that involves some near balletic moves.


The Transporter Refueled was directed by Camille Delamarre, a Besson protégé who served as the editor for Transporter 3 and Taken 2. His staging of the fight scenes is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as Chan’s often was, with the emphasis more on impressing the audience with acrobatic moves and generating a few chuckles than trying to create the impression of realistic hand-to-hand combat. Tongue-in-cheek or not, the fight scenes (and one car chase scene through an airport) are really the only parts of Refueled worth seeing.


In retrospect, The Transporter Refueled may wind up being the best movie Jason Statham never made. Even if Statham had agreed to appear in the movie, it would likely have been mediocre at best. With the hapless Skrein standing in for him, Statham comes off as an action film Olivier. As for The Transporter Refueled, it didn’t merely run out of gas; it had an empty tank to begin with. 

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The Transporter Refueled (2015) on IMDb