Fifteen years ago in 1995, a new man in town on the French Riviera made his mark by taking over the prostitution rings there by bringing in his own trafficked women and shooting anyone who threatened to get in his way. He was Arkady Karasov (Radivoje Bukvic), and he was here to stay, or so he thought, but one of his sex slaves, Anna (Loan Chabanol) has been planning her revenge on her captor for some time, which brings us to the year 2010 and she has drawn up a plan that seems foolproof, all she needs is a man who can assist in bringing it to fruition. She chooses one of the best in the business, the so-called transporter Frank Martin (Ed Skrein), a can-do man and more…
Nobody is going to call Jason Statham one of the greatest thespians in cinema, but when it came to The Transporter Refueled you did begin to realise just how much he brought to the table when it came to his starring roles. He had originated the franchise back at the turn of the millennium, and went on to appear in two sequels that may not have been enormous money earners but did command a solid following and made a tidy profit. However, perhaps recognising how crucial he was to the the series, he asked for an awful lot of money to show up in the fourth instalment, so much that producer and writer Luc Besson and his team turned him down and opted to cast a different actor instead.
Ed Skrein was that actor, best known at that point for being sacked from hit television fantasy series Game of Thrones, though he would go on to appear in blockbusting Marvel movie Deadpool the year after this. Just as well, really, because there wasn't much of an audience for watching a Transporter reboot without ver Stath, especially one with the wooden performance of Skrein in it, as if he was still finding his feet as the film was being shot and still hadn't become entirely comfortable by the time it had been completed. Interestingly, Ray Stevenson was cast his character's father, which maybe indicated that was who Statham would have been playing should he have accepted Besson's offer to come back after all.
But even Stevenson, a reliable performer in a variety of tough guy roles, looked ill at ease here, possibly because he was playing second fiddle to a far less experienced actor. A Transporter movie with him as the lead might have been more palatable, or even one of those Besson action flicks without that franchise name, giving him the Liam Neeson treatment, though after two Taken sequels of dispiriting quality that may have meant a rethink was in order. The fact remained, Stevenson was a more appealing presence here than Skrein, which had you wondering when he'd be back on the screen when the actor playing his son was intended to be the focus, assuming you weren't caught up in admiring the pulchritude of the selection of models who had been hired to play the avenging gang.
Director Camille Delamarre was stylish enough, but that style of his was superficial and glossy, as if he was better suited to commercials, which may have been the case when much of The Transporter Refuelled came across as one long ad for the brand of vehicle Frank uses throughout. It had as much depth as a corporate video as well, with everything geared towards the surface and nothing, not even much humour, about the subtext or even any depth whatsoever. The car chases, the escapes, the hand-to-hand combat, it was more or less what it appeared to be, action for its own sake, and while most of it was well presented, it was so shallow overall that it made very little impression aside from its sleek professionalism, which was the least you would have hoped for. Whatever you thought of Statham, he had a certain charisma that carried him through an acting talent that was not the most stellar, but here there was a vacuum at the centre of proceedings where you just didn't care what happened, just that there was something vaguely kinetic going on. Music by Alexandre Azaria.