Pales in comparison to the original

The Transporter Refueled introduces an all new Frank Martin

The original The Transporter series will always have a place in my heart as one of the most entertaining action flicks of all time. Jason Statham's portrayal of the mysterious Frank Martin appealed to me with his deadpan humour and silent, threatening stares, not to mention his borderline mythic skills with the wheel.

You can imagine my excitement, then, when I heard that a new Transporter movie was in the works, which meant another shot of Frank's Audi going on a wild, unstoppable adrenalin trip that would leave me sighing from pent up tension and excitement.

Well I did end up having a big, long sigh at the end of The Transporter Refueled, but for an entirely different and infinitely less satisfying reason.

Starring Ed Skrein (of Game Of Thrones fame) as Frank Miller, the story begins with a prologue in Monaco introducing us to two major characters: Karasov (Radivoje Bukvic), a Russian skin-trader who acts as the film's main big-bad, and Anna (Loan Chabanol), one of the girls under his control and the real main character of the film.

Then the film skips forward 15 years and introduces us to Frank with an awesome fight sequence that quickly shows us that, despite lacking Statham's sheer physical presence, Skrein's Frank Martin can handle himself just fine in a fight while looking absolutely cool. We are then introduced to a new character to the series: Frank's father, Frank Martin Sr (Ray Stevenson), who is a self-professed "salesman for the mineral water brand Evian" (but is clearly a retired British spy).

After some pleasant father-and-son time, Frank Sr ends up being abducted by Anna and her posse of ex-call girls, who have somehow gained the knowledge and skills to rob banks with such spectacular flourishes that would make Danny Ocean blush in jealousy. Frank Jr is then blackmailed into helping Anna and her gals on a plan to get very, very rich by robbing the pimps that sold them out in the first place.

First, it is important for fans of the original trilogy to understand that Skrein's Frank Martin is an entirely different person from Statham's. While sharing a number of similar characteristics outside of their vehicular and pugilistic prowess (such as the three rules, the quietness, etc), their mannerisms are entirely different; it took me quite a bit into the film to accept the fact that this character is not the Frank Martin I used to know.

Gone is the no-nonsense brawler that was Statham; Skrein's portrayal of Frank Martin (who we now know is an ex-special forces officer) does away with the perpetually pissed-off look we know and love, replacing it with a smooth confidence that almost reminded me of a scrappier James Bond. I admit that the more spy-like approach to Martin did leave a bad taste in my mouth for a little while, though I gradually grew to appreciate the new, more expressive Transporter as a different imagining of the old Transporter, and my enjoyment improved somewhat after the fact.

That said, I must say that I am ultimately disappointed with The Transporter Refueled. In an attempt to perhaps introduce a more grounded version of a character that is more or less a superhero at this point, the film does away with much of the original trilogy's campy and logic-defying elements in favour of establishing the characters. We are treated to the wonderful chemistry between Frank Martins Jr and Sr, serving to give the main protagonist more emotional depth, as well as the underlying relationship between Anna and her group of femme fatales.

For that though, we give up the epic, unforgettable set pieces that made the originals so great (like Frank flipping his car off a ramp on top of a building and use a crane hook to remove a bomb stuck under his car. It will always be one of my favourite movie set pieces ever). The titular Transporter himself is also surprisingly tame when it comes to fighting with style compared to the original. In Transporter 2, Martin beat up an entire group of armed thugs using the metal nozzle of a water hose like a flail-and-lasso hybrid. In Transporter 3, Statham literally beat up an entire garage-full of goons with his clothes (all the while staying within a certain distance from his car to prevent himself from exploding).

While Skrein's Martin does get some excellent action sequences with unconventional weapons (shelves), they're nowhere near as jaw-dropping or impressive as Statham's. The driving stunts are also a let-down, especially considering what we've seen from other driving-focused films since the original trilogy's release, like the Fast And Furious series.

Skrein's Transporter arguably isn't even the main focus of the film. Despite having his face and title front, right and centre in all the posters, the movie is very much about Anna and her quest to free herself and her group of friends from their lives of prostitution, all the while getting some old-fashioned revenge on the scum who made her life a living hell. We get to see her ruthless and manipulative side, as well as her caring and virtuous side. At the end of the film, it is Anna who has learned a lesson and changed as a result of it. You can even say the film can be told entirely from Anna's point of view, and it would be an ultimately more interesting story.

Despite decent performances and chemistry between all the actors, The Transporter Refueled is a pale comparison to the original material that inspired it. The action is light and largely unmemorable, and the titular character lacks gravitas, even if he comes across as more human.

The Transporter Refueled

Starring Ed Skrein, Loan Chabanol, Radivoje Bukvic.

Directed by Camille Delamarre.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Kanin Srimaneekulroj
Position: Reporter