With Ed Skrein, Loan Chabanol, Ray Stevenson, Radivoje Bukvic, Gabriella Wright. Written by Adam Cooper & Bill Collage & Luc Besson. Directed by Camille Delamarre. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, sexual material, some language, a drug reference and thematic elements. 96 minutes.
It’s not like “The Transporter” is a major cinematic franchise. THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED is the fourth film in the series (which has also included a television show), and Ed Skrein replaces Jason Statham as Frank Martin, a driver of many talents who will take anything, anywhere… for a fee, no questions asked.
These are extended chase films with fancy cars and occasionally other vehicles smashing through things as Frank sets things right. Statham was (and is) an engaging action star, while Skrein is an actor whose career is on the rise with several upcoming films as well as a stint on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” He brings his own sensibility to the role, but maintains Frank’s stoicism and professionalism. Indeed his lack of reaction–which should not be confused with lack of personality–brings to mind the “Great Stone Face” of Buster Keaton. Different performances, but both push through whatever gets thrown at them.
This time Frank gets caught up in a convulted plot by Anna (Loan Chabanol) to get revenge on a Russian mobster and pimp, Arkady Karasov (Radivoje Bukvic). The story is easy enough to follow but it won’t be summarized here because there are a few reverses along the way that are intended as surprise twists. Suffice to say the plot includes not only several ex-prostitutes engaging in elaborate thefts from Arkady and his associates, but Frank’s father (Ray Stevenson), himself a retired spy who gets caught up in the activities. If it seems contrived, Stevenson’s presence turns out to be a major plus for the film, offering him opportunities for wry commentary on the proceedings.
However the bottom line is that these films are about the action and, most particularly, the chases. One would think it all been done–how many police cars crashing into each other do we need to see?–however, a sequence set at an airport that involves a runaway private plane is hugely entertaining even if the details stretch your willingness to suspend disbelief to the near breaking point.
“The Transporter Refueled” might be considered a reboot of the series, but it’s really a continuation. If audiences buy Skrein in the lead–and there’s no reason they shouldn’t–he could stick around for a sequel or two, or not. It’s a film that is engaging if you go for this sort of thing but, even then, not something likely to stick with you. In other words, if this is the last of the line, no one will be asking in a year or two when the next one will be out. It’s the cotton candy of action films. It’s fun while you’re enjoying it, but not something that you’ll remember very often.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.