Critics may be lining up to heap abuse on Camille Delamarre’s The Transporter Refueled, but aside from one or two corny lines and plot clichés it’s a perfectly watchable shoulder-season chop-socky exercise of the Euro-sexy-imitation-Bondian variety, an exciting, pleasantly mindless way to blow 101 minutes.
The James Bond figure in the Transporter series is Frank Martin, a wiry, studiedly nonchalant, putatively British man (the French-Chinese production was shot in France and is in English), attired in fashionable three-day stubble and skinny suit, who makes his living running clandestine cargo in and out of various scenic locales for shadowy businesspersons, cash on the barrelhead. That is, instead of queen and country he serves only himself — a tough bag man who speaks in stage whispers. For the fourth go-round, Frank is played by English actor Ed Skrein, replacing Jason Statham. Amen.
The job in question involves homely Russian crime boss Arkady Karasov (Serbian actor Radivoje Bukvic), king of the flesh trade on the French Riviera, where seemingly each street corner and hotel entrance is crowded with lovelies for rent. A vengeful former employee named Anna (Loan Chabanol), aided by a trio of like-minded working girls, has designs on Arkady’s bank account, and wants Frank — in the company of his retired-spook father (Ray Stevenson) — to be their chauffeur. Frank, his dad, Anna, the three Frank’s Angels, Arkady, and his goons all practice some degree of martial arts, so there are lots of scuffles. Plus car chases, a bank robbery, dance club gas attack, car racing through an airport terminal, throwdown on the inevitable yacht, etc. And a new honeytrap every five feet.
Mastermind of the Transporter series is well-traveled filmmaker Luc Besson, hotshot stylist of a generation ago (La Femme Nikita; Léon, the Professional), who now presides over stuff like the Taken franchise. We’d much rather see a dramatized account of Besson’s life than anything Frank Martin does.