At no time in The Transporter Refueled does anything make a lick of sense. This is so far beyond the leave-your-brain-at-the-door stupidity of a Fast and Furious movie or even Transformers explosion porn. If it isn’t the dumbest movie in years, then it’s worth asking how many times the writers of Refueled watched that one before preparing this script.
You might well ask how we’ve reached a fourth Transporter movie, and where the clamor for it originated. That’s a good question. Collectively, the trilogy featuring Jason Statham barely made $200 million worldwide. By comparison, Need for Speed, the 2014 Aaron Paul vroom vroom movie that nobody saw … somehow made $203 million. So why this? Why now?
The case for a new Transporter gets murkier because there’s no sign of Jason Statham. He’s been replaced by Ed Skrein, a British rapper and actor whose rasp is both monotonous and largely incomprehensible. He is playing the same role as Statham, however— a former special ops mercenary named Frank Martin who now delivers parcels at high rates of speed. Martin receives a job offer from a mysterious woman named Anna (Loan Chabanol): He’s to pick her up, along with two packages, at a bank later that afternoon. The other packages are also mysterious women, and they’re all dressed the same. Turns out they’ve just robbed the bank. Martin, if you remember from the earlier trilogy, doesn’t ask questions. “Plausible deniability,” he always says, as if the law serves any function in these films other than to collide its cars into each other. The women are prostitutes, and they’re ripping off the crime syndicate that employs them so they can finally be free of its chains.
Each of their heists pushes the bullshit meter into the red. For example, at one point the three musketeers sneak into a nightclub with a tank of anesthetic, leaking it into the air system and causing hundreds in attendance to pass out, all so they can log in to a computer. And it works!
Martin is obliged to help them, you see, because they’ve abducted his father (Ray Stevenson), who has just retired from being a highly decorated spy. However, since he gets kidnapped in broad daylight multiple times in the film, it’s worth wondering how good he really was at that job. Or maybe it’s not worth wondering at all. Clearly, the three screenwriters never bothered to, so why break your back over it? Refueled is part of Luc Besson’s fiendish plan for world domination. His EuropaCorp is responsible for the Taken franchise, last year’s surprise summer hit, Lucy and just about every European action movie that stars an aging American actor.
One in 10 of these movies is OK, but you can’t argue with the bank statements. EuropaCorp is also a proving ground for young European directors. Louis Leterrier made the first two Transporter flicks before graduating to The Incredible Hulk in 2008 and Now You See Me a couple years ago. Refueled is Besson’s second gift to Camille Delamarre, following up last year’s atrocious Brick Mansions. But this may be the stupidest and least interesting movie the McDonald’s of Mayhem has churned out.
Perhaps it’s asking too much for instantaneous online bank transfers in the hundreds of millions of dollars to require more than a name and a photo, or for characters who can’t possibly share a backstory to not actually share that backstory. Maybe horrible overdubs of terrible dialogue actually enhance this experience; it certainly gets some laughs. But if filmmaking is this lazy—if the stick-to-carrot ratio of entertaining you is this short—shouldn’t you just stay home?
By the way, Besson has already announced there will be two more of these. Get in line. ■