15 – 92mins – 2015
“No names” is specialist driver-for-hire Frank Martin’s first rule of business, and one that French producers Europacorp seem to have taken to heart when recasting the title role in this action-thriller reboot. Ed Skrein (currently best known for straight-to-DVD home invasion drama Tiger House) has the dubious honour of stepping into the ever-popular Jason Statham’s clean-pressed suit – and he is the biggest “star” in this belated third sequel!
With a piercing glare and clenched jaw, Skrein has the perfect level of dark intensity to pull off Frank Martin’s more dangerous demeanor, but he’s too youthful and far too private school to endow the character with the Stath’s grounded cockney charm. “Kidding’s not my thing,” he deadpans tellingly as he revs his ride to escape the gang of a Russian crime lord in one of Refuelled‘s copious stunt sequences.
It is clear that it is in the locations, vehicles, explosions and flashy choreography – rather than the cast – that this Luc Besson co-written adventure has disbursed its budget; the French Riviera is suitably swish and exotic, while the turbo-charged car chases – and crashes – are pleasingly impressive. The film’s stand out scene, involving a pilot-less plane careening down a runway, is almost enough to justify a big screen release alone.
But were it not for such extravagant eye candy, it’s hard to see how such an otherwise lo-fi production could warrant a theatrical tenure. The story – involving Frank’s charismatic father (Ray Stevenson) being kidnapped by a trio of revenge-fuelled femme fatales – is adequately plotted but predictably safe, with the seedy side of Europe’s underbelly (prostitution, drugs, gun crime) once more being mined for corruption and carnage on the sun-kissed coast.
I wouldn’t be against hopping into Frank’s taxi for another spin – it does make for a satisfyingly diverting ride – but unless Besson et al can inject some nitrous into this franchise, I just fear that the next time The Transporter stops at a service station to refuel, he’ll find his next sequel in the bargain bin beneath the WD40 and out-of-date Wine Gums.