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Capone says THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED has a few cool action sequences, but it's mostly out of gas!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

After three Jason Statham-starring TRANSPORTER films, I'm not sure why producer and co-writer Luc Besson felt the need to bring back the series without Statham. Granted, the films were adapted into a television series with another actor as well, but that almost makes sense to a degree. But the new driver/bodyguard Frank Martin (Ed Skrein of "Game of Thrones" and the villain Ajax in the upcoming DEADPOOL film), I'm not quite sure what the filmmakers had hoped to achieve. There's no debating Skrein is less of a personality and is far more generic looking than Stathan (Skrein might be taller), so the only possible excuse to make THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED is a cash grab on the series name. There, I've cracked it.

It's not that Besson and director Camille Delamarre (BRICK MANSIONS; editor on TRANSPORTER 3, COLOMBIANA and TAKEN 2, all Besson productions) don't make some effort; it's just that the effort is made entirely in staging the action scenes, with no real though given to an original plot or characters in whose fate we ever feel invested. And just to make sure we don't fall asleep due to all of this lack of effort or originality, REFUELED is set in the world of Monaco's prostitution game, giving the filmmakers ample excuses to include beautiful, scantily clad women (although setting a PG-13-rated film in such an environment is about as exciting as a LEGO playset of Amsterdam's Red Light District—actually that sounds more interesting).

REFUELED also attempts to give us a little history on Frank by bringing his equally shadowy father (Ray Stevenson of "Rome," PUNISHER: WAR ZONE and the THOR films), who claims he's an Evian salesman, but historically always turns up in "transitioning" nations. A bit of Frank's British military background also surfaces when a former colleague, Arkady Karasov (Radivoje Bukvic), turns out to be the CEO of prostitution in all of Monaco. Frank is hired by Anna (Loan Chabanol), one of said call girls for a secret job that turns out to be robbing Karasov and his partners blind, while attempting to keep her identity a secret. Anna has three equally seductive partners that manage to get Frank to work for them beyond the parameters of their original deal by kidnapping his dad, and threatening to kill him if Frank doesn't help (dear old dad is actually kidnapped twice in the film, which makes his usefulness truly limited).

The rest of THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED is just chases and shooting, some of which is quite exciting, especially the car stunts down ridiculously narrow and winding streets. But action not tied to characters we care about is so empty and dull. Skrein is probably a decent actor, but when he's given stale one-liners and dialogue like "That wasn't part of the contract" to say over and over again (always answered by "We're changing the contract."), the film wears out its welcome at an alarming speed.

I'm not usually one to harp on product placement in film. It's a necessary evil, and I usually don't dwell on it. But the way the filmmakers profile the Audi cars that Frank drivers isn't so much car porn as car hand jobs (not to mention flagrant nods to American Express and Frank Sr.'s constant references to his job with Evian). And I realize that Dumas is too dead to collect royalties, but the hookers have modeled themselves after the “Three Musketeers,” complete with quotes and copies of the book scattered throughout the film. Who puts actual literature in a TRANSPORTER movies?!

If you're in the mood for other annoying and unnecessary references, the fact that Stevenson's character keeps calling Frank "Junior" doesn't exactly make it easy to ignore how much the film is pinching from a certain Indiana Jones film featuring Sean Connery. According to the credits, it took three people to write this film... three. Hell, even when the action gets good, the editing is so rapid that you lose your sense of geography, timing and direction, making all of that staging and stuntwork largely wasted.

Maybe REFUELED coming so close on the heals of the latest MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film has soured me to anything that doesn't try to make the action comprehensible, but there are a couple of stunts here that don't make sense even using the loosest junk science and exaggerated physics. And while we're on the subject of science, let's talk about medicine—namely a scene in which one of women is gut shot and Stevenson reaches in, pulls out the bullet, uses cobwebs to coagulate the blood, and she's back on her feet and fighting without so much as a visible Band-Aid the next day.

I think in the course of writing this review, I've talked myself into disliking REFUELED even more. The action is average, the jokes aren't funny, and with the exception of Stevenson (barely), the performances are flat and uninspired. Extract the action scenes and combine them into a 25-minute short, then come back and see me.

-- Steve Prokopy
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