Tuesday, January 5, 2016

In short: The Transporter Refueled (2015)

For the standards of Luc Besson’s Europa Corp. this attempt to get back to one of the company’s defining franchises without its defining star is a bit of a middling film, providing the expected amount of car chases, some martial arts set pieces that somewhat suffer from new lead Ed Skrein not being a seasoned (or good) screen fighter and clearly not a dancer either - which usually is the next best thing for fake martial arts in movies - and a bunch of stuff and nonsense.

Said nonsense is just general action movie silliness this time around and not Europa Corp. trademark brain-breakingly offensive stupidity, which should not be a complaint coming from a guy who has so often complained about the EC brand of stupidity in the past, but actually very much feels like one right now. Either it’s Stockholm Syndrome, or I’ve just gotten used to Besson’s very particular view of the world and the natural laws that govern it, but I’m missing the deeply stupid bits here, perhaps because most of Refueled’s silliness feels so pro forma and bland.

The word bland leads us directly to Ed Skrein, a man who I’ve seen act, so I’m pretty sure he can, but who doesn’t bother here. Instead he just shows up, mumbles through his dialogue in the most toneless voice imaginable, stiffly goes through the action sequences even though director Camille Delamarre – not being the terror we know as Olivier Megaton – does his level best to film around his lead actor in an action movie not actually being much cop for action sequences. Now, I’m really not a fan of Jason Statham, but Skrein’s performance at least gives me a new appreciation for Statham’s screen presence and acting abilities. Sure, it’s a pretty one note shtick, but unlike Skrein here, Statham always hits his one note.

Given Ray Stevenson’s presence as Frank’s father, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one not terribly convinced by the film’s actual lead, so at least the film gives us the Europa Corp. mandatory aging English language actor having a bit of fun on camera. Stevenson’s cast in a bit of an atypical role here (he’s still a tough guy, but the charming and mildly cultured sort), and whenever he is on screen, proceedings become that important bit more lively. Why, even Skrein seems to wake up from his slumber a bit when Stevenson’s around to drag him out of his coma.

Thanks to Stevenson, as well as the fact that Europa Corp – whoever is actually directing any given movie there – can by now film solid action sequences in their collective sleep (and you could argue that’s how the action here came to be), The Transporter Refueled still works as an okay little Euro action movie. The genre – and even EC’s back catalogue – is just so full of more worthwhile films I’m not sure why you’d bother with this one unless you’re really, really bored.

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