The Transporter franchise was once the action-packed series that propelled Jason Statham into the limelight but has now grown beyond its original trilogy without some of the growing pains associated with franchises. Fast and Furious, James Bond and even the Marvel Universe have had their ups and downs before becoming a bankable series, but Refuelled has somehow managed to be more entertaining and engaging than one might expect.
Building on the characteristics of the franchise such as self-contained plot, fight scenes, girls and car chases, the film keeps it all familiar yet updated. This doesn’t ignore the more cheesy elements of the series but Refuelled is helped by the introduction of Ed Skrein as the hero Frank Martin: he’s gruff, tough, sly and precise – everything you could want from a Transporter.
For those who are not familiar with the premise, the original 2002 Statham-vehicle, The Transporter, follows ex-Special Forces operator Frank Martin living a seemingly quiet life in the French coast, working as a mercenary “transporter”, moving goods – human or otherwise – from one place to another. To pull off this task Frank abides by a strict set of rules which he never breaks. Rule One: Never change the deal. Rule Two: No names – he doesn't want to know whom he's working for, or what he's transporting. Rule Three: never look in the package.
Working more as a re-introduction rather than a reboot, Frank is already a seasoned transporter with specific rules, a steady income and a very nice car. What really allows us to find out more about Frank is the appearance of his father Frank Martin Sr. played by Ray Stevenson. Frank Sr. is in town to visit his son, happily retired after his time working for the Evian Company (which just happened to put him in political conflicts across the globe). He’s eager to bond with his son, but becomes more involved in his son's business then he expected, all while reminiscing about Frank’s younger years in the army.
Frank is hired by the mysterious Anna (Loan Chabanol) to deliver herself and her two packages safely to the airport. Of course Anna is not all she appears to be. We’re first introduced to her 15 years earlier, in her first days working under a prostitution ring; since then she’s been driven by revenge and hope of a better life. Joined by three of her colleagues, they aim to finally take control of their lives. In many ways Anna is the actual hero of this story, whilst Frank is merely a knight in her chess game against the pimps. Frank is left in the dark for a great deal of the film, being thrown into car chases and fights rather than the quiet evening with dad he was hoping for.
Unlike previous instalments where action scenes were paired with fast cutting which made the action seem faster but made it less immersive – here the action is allowed to develop at its own pace, turning it into a far more realistic – but nonetheless stylistic – film. The sound editors have also increased the volume each time Frank throws a punch, so it sounds like he should have cracked someone’s ribs every time.
The script is clever enough to structure fights that are a consequence of the plot rather than to fill time. A highlight, by far, is the scene when Frank must fight the bad guys who are in the way of his car, and so he sets it on drive and fights whilst the car moves along with him.
Taking place in the south of France, the film frequently makes use of the beautiful cities of Nice, Cannes and Monaco which hides the seedy side of prostitution in glamorous hotels, juxtaposed against Anna’s base in an abandoned warehouse, providing a greater sense of hopelessness for Anna and what she’s up against.
The Transporter Refuelled is a surprising enjoyable action-packed flick, effortlessly cool and gritty, supported greatly by the self-contained story making it easy to slip into for those who have never seen the Transporter films.
It also has some of the clichés of the series (and its genre) which I didn’t really mind and even if I did, they were quickly brushed off. If you’re looking for a good action film to cap the summer off, this is certainly it.
The Transporter Refuelled is released in UK cinemas on September 4th