February 8, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: Big budget fails to save box office bomb

"The Transporter Refueled"

Directed by Camille Delamarre

It’s truly been a summer of surprises at the box office. From heartening hit “Inside Out” to cacophonous comedy “Vacation,” the 2015 blockbuster season has left a trail of triumphs and tragedies in its wake. But with Labor Day weekend marking the official end of summer, the time has once again come for the lull to be filled with movies that completely miss the mark. “The Transporter Refueled” is perhaps the ultimate example of this recurring trend, as it manages to put viewers to sleep mere minutes after the opening credits.

Based on the characters created by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, the movie stars English actor and rapper Ed Skrein as Frank Martin, a former Special Forces operative who spends his days living as a driver-for-hire on the French Riviera. When his newly retired father, Frank Senior (Ray Stevenson), is abducted in broad daylight, Frank finds himself playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse as he is forced to help a team of enigmatic femme fatales take down the international crime syndicate that forced them into prostitution.

The film initially sets up a promising story with an opening fight sequence that presents itself with a certain dignity often found in action thrillers. But after the first half-hour, the impression suddenly evaporates and what follows is a motion picture completely devoid of tension. Audiences expecting high-speed action will sadly get dialogue-thick scenes that barely propel the story forward, which leaves very little to enjoy in the overall running time. In addition to sifting through cookie-cutter cliches seen time and time again, audience members will be left struggling to make sense of the gaping plot holes. It seems tragic that a competent writer like Besson, who co-wrote the script with Bill Collage and Adam Cooper, can’t shine through a lackluster narrative like the one he has created or live up to the legacy created by the previous three installments in the “Transporter” franchise.

As problematic as the writing is, the overall performance of the film’s leading man is what causes this reboot to fall flat. Skrein, who is known for guest starring as mercenary Daario Naharis in the popular television series “Game of Thrones,” initially establishes the kind of person that Frank is: charismatic, cold and fully committed to the three rules he lives by. Unfortunately, he fails to use those qualities to his advantage as the film progresses and, in doing so, turns what could have been a full-fledged character into a caricature. This could have been easily remedied if Besson had worked with the cast to flesh out their characters instead of just taking the easy way out with overused tropes.

The supporting cast is nothing short of shallow. French model Loan Chabanol crafts a less-than-memorable performance as Frank’s beautiful yet enigmatic client, Anna, while Yugoslavian actor Radivoje Bukvic builds up the character of Arkady Karasov, a Russian businessman with a mysterious connection to Frank’s past, as a force to be reckoned with, only to tear him down with monologues that come across as tedious and boring. Tatiana Pajkovic, Wenxia Yu and Gabriella Wright dazzle as Anna’s drop-dead gorgeous confederates, but fall victim to flat characterization just as quickly as their co-stars.

“The Transporter Refueled” has, arguably, a legacy to live up to, and the original 2002 film sets the bar. Those familiar with the 2002 action-thriller, which starred English actor and professional martial artist Jason Statham as the titular courier, will find themselves noticing numerous similarities in “Refueled”: Both films are set in the French Riviera, both pit Frank against a black-market human trafficking ring and both sacrifice coherent storytelling for shock value. These similarities ultimately distract audiences from following the main storyline, which is primarily why director Camille Delamarre fails to capture the image he so desperately grasps for.

Perhaps the only positive quality of this film is an awareness of its overambitious yet ultimately cheesy tone. From the moment the opening sequence comes to an end, the highbrow premise becomes lost in a whirlwind of gratuitous violence and glossed-over sex scenes. Hair-raising fistfights and dizzying car chases only succeed in drawing laughs instead of gasps. If Delamarre is not concerned with the development of action, then audiences should have no reason to be concerned either.

An easily forgettable addition to the post-summer schedule, “The Transporter Refueled” will leave viewers disappointed with the execution of what could have been a well-made thriller. With this in mind, one can only hope that the next attempt at a reboot is more successful than its so-called predecessor.