Action: A professional driver, who never asks questions about what he's transporting, must contend with his latest client kidnapping his father in order to force him to help her get revenge on the powerful pimp who controlled her for years.
Frank Martin (ED SKREIN) is a professional driver in the south of France who's good at delivering clients' packages, although he has rules about doing so, including not knowing their names or what they've hired him to deliver. His latest job is for Anna (LOAN CHABANOL), a young woman who arranges for a pick-up outside a bank, but that turns out to be her and her companions, Gina (GABRIELLA WRIGHT) and Qiao (WENXIA YU), who've just pulled off a heist. Frank is confused by this turn of events. That is, until he's shown a picture of the women's fourth member, Maria (TATIANA PAJKOVIC), holding a gun to the head of Frank's father, Frank Sr. (RAY STEVENSON).
It turns out they've kidnapped that recently retired British intelligence officer in order to force Frank to help them, and particularly Anna, get revenge on Arkady Karasov (RADIVOJE BUKVIC). He's the pimp turned crime boss who's controlled Anna and her friends as they worked as prostitutes entertaining him and his fellow criminal associates, including Yuri (YURI KOLOKOLNIKOV).
Anna's plan is to ruin Karasov financially and via his power standing with other criminals, something he doesn't take kindly, a sentiment shared by his former prostitute turned right-hand woman, Maissa (NOEMIE LENOIR). From that point on, and never using a gun, Frank does what he must to appease Anna and her partners, all to save his father.
OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
In what's arguably one of the greatest comparative put-down in the annals of history, Senator Lloyd Bentsen -- following the remark of Senator Dan Quayle in the 1988 United States vice-presidential debate that he has as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency -- delivered the following slam: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
Since then, others have paraphrased the cutting remark, and I'm going to do so as well: Ed Skrein, I watched Jason Statham star in "The Transporter" movie trilogy. While I don't know Jason Statham, and he's no friend of mine, I can say without a shadow of doubt that Mr. Skrein, you're no Jason Statham.
Granted, the 32-year-old barely known actor (who will eventually make a splash when he appears as Ajax in next year's highly anticipated "Deadpool") isn't starring in some unexpected Statham biopic. But he is taking over the role of Frank Martin in this new rebooting of that franchise that started back in 2002, spawned two sequels in three-year cycles, and turned the Guy Ritchie discovery into a somewhat unlikely action movie star.
Facing the same cinematic thespian peril as Roger Moore taking over for Sean Connery, Dick Sergeant inheriting the role started by Dick York, Val Kilmer becoming Batman after Michael Keaton (not to mention Adam West) and many others, Skrein's take on the titular character will undoubtedly be compared to Statham's, at least by those who saw the movies.
Don't get me wrong, the original set of films weren't exactly Oscar contenders, but I enjoyed the first one. That was mainly due to Statham, the film's sense of style, and the action that more than passed my litmus test of making me want to drive fast and aggressively on the way home -- inspired by the same in the film -- following the roll of the end credits.
The only thing this new version made me want to do was drive home, like a sane person and in no particular hurry, and look up Skrein to see if he's somehow related to Nicholas Hoult. He isn't, but the two share so many physical attributes, particularly in facial structure, that you'd swear they're siblings. If the film had been better, it might not have been distracting, but considering it didn't take me long to give up hope that the 100-some minute film might somehow redeem itself on any level, my mind wandered to Skrein's lineage.
While the lead actor is just okay in the part, and Ray Stevenson appears to be performing in an entirely different movie (playing the dad character who's supposed to be some recently retired, top-notch MI6 fella, but manages to get kidnapped not once but twice), the rest of the performers range from mediocre to bad. Speaking of that latter quality, the script is atrocious (as is the sound recording of the dialogue that's barely better than garbled at times), the editing is horrendous (I figured it would be fast to "enhance" the fighting, but it's horrible even on that level), and the portrayal of all the women -- well, let's just say they and thus the film won't be passing the old Bechdel test.
No, this is all male fantasy stuff courtesy of screenwriters Bill Collage & Adam Cooper & Luc Besson, as directed by Camille Delamarre. So despite the main female lead (Loan Chabanol) wanting to get revenge on the pimp-turned-crime boss (Radivoje Bukvic) who enslaved her in the sex trade biz for years, she and her companions (Tatiana Pajkovic, Wenxia Yu and Gabriella Wright) do so in tight dresses, high heels, lots of makeup, and, several times, matching blonde wigs. Despite their past (and maybe current, it isn't made clear) bedroom profession, they have no problem bedding both the protagonist and his dad (the latter gets a two for one special), while miscellaneous women are often seen scantily clad, slowly gyrating and grinding their nether regions for the usual array of hairy and sweaty looking gangsters. Oh, and there are two lesbian kisses thrown in just for "good" measure.
All of which might have been forgiven to some degree had the action been of the edge of your seat, make you sweat variety. Alas, as compared to the original film, the latter "Fast & Furious" flicks, the "Mission: Impossible" series and so on, it's pretty vanilla and uninspired (with the bad editing trying to enhance the beats, but failing).
Returning to the Bentsen, Quayle and Kennedy analogy, you have choices at the box office ballot and you should definitely vote for just about any other action movie. Suffering from the absence of Statham and various other ills, "The Transporter Refueled" is an empty and poorly made vessel that rates as a 3 out of 10.