As much as I tend to enjoy a good Jason Statham film, they certainly don't all fall into that category. I remember two things about TRANSPORTER 3, for instance. One was Statham furiously pedaling a child's bicycle to keep up with a remote control device that was going to blow him up if it got too far away. That was pretty good. The other was a truly annoying female lead. Not even Statham could make up for her.
So the prospect of yet another TRANSPORTER movie (not a prequel, as some have called it, but a reboot) without Statham caused me to automatically tick the "count me out" column (just like I did with TAKEN 3). But wouldn't you know it... somebody (you know who you are) got me to rethink my choice. As a general rule, I tend to like Luc Besson/Europa productions more than he does. Okay, except for LOCKOUT. Everybody hates LOCKOUT. So if he, of all people, is going to tell me that THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED was actually decent fun on the big screen, I have every right to expect a masterpiece, right?
Joking, of course. But THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED really is a lot of fun (and it's a hell of a lot better than TRANSPORTER 3 with or without Statham).
So. After a 1990s prologue in which the evil Russian mobster Karasov (Radivoje Bukvic) takes over the prostitution racket on the French Riviera, we meet young Frank Martin (I would have known Ed Skrein had I been watching GAME OF THRONES, which I haven't... I know, I know, sue me, different subject) as he demonstrates his thoroughly-modernized fight-and-drive technology when threatened in a parking garage. And no, this is not Daniel Craig stepping on (not in) the shoes of Sean Connery with an all-new take on Bond... Skrein is very, VERY much trying to give the Statham fans exactly what they want... and, well, he's not bad at all in the attempt.
We then meet Martin's father (Ray Stevenson of the unappreciated PUNISHER: WAR ZONE), delightfully laid back and humorous as he reflects on his own violent past and plays passive-aggressive "guilt trip" games with his son.
Okay, plot time. High-class call girl Anna (Loan Chabanol) has been living under the thumb of the evil Russian for fifteen years now, but she's spent this time orchestrating a highly-complicated escape/payback plot; for which she and her teammates will require the services of the Transporter. And to make sure he cooperates, Dad becomes part of the deal (not that he particularly minds, considering that he gets to spend his captivity with the gorgeous, frequently lingerie-clad ladies--the beauty/brains combination is a Besson trademark all the way back to TAXI). And we also get to find out just how much the various characters known about THE THREE MUSKETEERS.
One of the highlights of TRANSPORTER 2 involved Statham manipulating a fire hose in a hotel corridor in order to incapacitate his adversaries. Here, we get Skrein's Martin, pursued by half of the police force, managing to clip an arrangement of fire hydrants "just so" in order to stop all of his chasers without killing them (so of course no innocent victims actually die in any of this chaos no matter how bad it looks). If you choose to take the film seriously from that point on, you're in the wrong theatre and you haven't even gotten to the truly outrageous "airport" sequence (I will say no more).
But while the action is surreal and frequently comic (to the point where you're taken aback when things don't work out exactly the way you expect them to for some of the cast), it's every bit as clever as it is "dumb" when one considers what it takes to conceive of such Rube Goldberg plots and stunts in the first place. And I also found it remarkable how closely the plot of this film parallels that of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. Seriously. Driven woman makes a break from a tyrannical kingdom with several "sisters" in tow. She requires the assistance and cooperation of an anti-hero and much as they try to break from each other's company, they realize they need each other equally. And the antihero tries to drive away when "his job" is done, leaving the ladies to face certain death as they attempt to soldier on. Think he'll get far?
Make no mistake: this is NOT MM:FR. But it's not TRANSPORTER 3, either, and it's more than worth your time.
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