By Randy Cordova | Gannett News Service
Let’s not kid ourselves: The original “Transporter” series is never going to go down in history as one of the great action franchises. They’re dumb, fun movies — nothing more or less. When you look at it at that way, “The Transporter Refueled” is the perfect way to reboot the series. It’s mindless entertainment with enough thrills and chuckles to make the time pass painlessly. Just don’t examine anything too closely.
British actor Ed Skrein takes over the role of Frank Martin, a tough guy whose job consists of driving around packages in his oh-so-fine Audi. He doesn’t want to know what he’s transporting and he doesn’t ask for the names of clients. He’s able to protect himself with flashy driving skills, martial arts savvy and sheer derring-do.
Jason Statham created the role, which seemed tailor-made to his particular brand of charisma — monosyllabic, suave and vaguely threatening. Skrein gets the first part of the equation down, but seems sadly deficient in the other two areas.
That could derail the whole project, so the filmmakers smartly give Frank a dad to help him out. Frank Senior is a roguish charmer who says he’s an Evian sales rep but is actually some kind of retired spy. Apparently, he was a terrible one, because he gets kidnapped twice before the film ends. Journeyman actor Ray Stevenson has a ball here, playing the character with a jaunty twinkle in his eye and enough personality to make up for Skrein’s lack of one.
The plot involves a group of four prostitutes targeting the pimp who forced them into business 15 years earlier. Apparently, prostitution isn’t that tough in the French Riviera, because these women look ready to hit a fashion runway at any minute. Plus, they had time to memorize passages from “The Three Musketeers,” so we’re talking beauty and brains here.
However dopey it may be, the story line serves its function. That is, it allows Frank to engage in hands-on combat and high-speed car chases. Director Camille Delamarre scores most of the time, with a couple of great sequences standing out. An escape in an airport is flat-out exciting, with Frank driving his Audi through crowded terminals. Even better is a battle in which Frank knocks around the bad guys by opening and closing file cabinets. It suggests the kind of inventive choreography you might have seen if Gene Kelly made butt-kicking action flicks instead of MGM musicals.The film ends, naturally, with the prospect of a sequel. As long as Frank Senior sticks around, it could be worth checking out.
EuropaCorp presents a film directed by Camille Delamarre and written by Bill Collage, Adam Cooper and Luc Besson. Running time: 96 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for violence, action, sexual material, language and a drug reference). Opens Friday at local theaters.