Review by contributor Anthony Hall
Even though the fourth film in the Transporter series, Transporter Refueled, is an amateurish mess, I would personally recommend it as a fun, sometimes charming film that theater-goers will view as money well spent if there is, say, a heatwave in your neighborhood and no place else to go with air conditioning. Truth be told, I went in expecting to hate this movie or to fall asleep in the first twenty minutes.
The last thing I expected was to enjoy the film, which is being reviewed with some spicy vitriol. “Just Plain Stupid,” is one review’s headline. But with that in mind, it is a far more amusing film than say, Charlie’s Angels or John Wick, although they all share a similar purpose. But I think my own personal journey here is emblematic, so let’s begin there.
First off all, I expected a big budget monster of a film with sci-fi overtones – a transporter moving from time zone to time zone. Instead, I find a modest, organic film – just people punching each other and taking pot shots (many of them in two scenes) at each other and some pleasing, leggy women to ogle and nobody is time traveling at all. This I found to be the good news.
On the way to the film, my cohort informs me, “It’s about fast cars and beating people up.” To this, I react with a loud groan. But when the punching starts, it is served up with a novel, comedic touch or two, especially in the special effects that are meant (thank god) to get past these scenes quickly.
So, here’s the sobering news: At this stage in the game, it is time to admit that the seven Fast and Furious movies, to which Transporter owes the most allegiance, have systematically lowered the bar on action film expectations. Films are now pitched first by stunts, then by earnings potential, then by star power and then, somewhere down the line a director is chosen and a script is glued together. So, let’s not kid ourselves: Eye candy and shiny cars makes for one absolutely moronic pretense for a movie. You know it and I know it. End of discussion.
However, it’s Transporter’s job to compete with stupid. – with big budget stupid, at that. That said, while the punching is punchy in Transporter Refueled, the car scenes are insipid by comparison. There’s a neat trick in which Frank Martin, the Transporter, played by Ed Skrein, pivots his Audi sports car around a cobblestone circle and knocks the caps off four successive fire plugs, which erupt in fountains of water that dethrones the four motorcycle police in pursuit. But the rest of the car chases are comically bad. The police drive like Japanese kamikaze pilots in pursuit of objects to hit with preference going to large, loud, explosive and suicidal. Look – a double-decker bus full of plastic explosives! Yay! Crash! Boom! Didn’t see that coming.
As part of the amateurish aspects to this film, one police car in pursuit is cruising through traffic at about 25 miles per hour. But when it rams into another car head on, it suddenly catapults about 35 feet into the air, as if it had been going 150 mph. Whee!
In a second dopey moment, one of the leading ladies is shot. In pure thriller-movie mode, Martin’s father (played by Ray Stevenson) calls for sugar and a mass of spider webs. The sugar is to serve as an antibiotic, we are told. The mass of spider webs, which he jams into her gaping stomach wound, hastens blood coagulation.
This is perhaps the highlight of the movie’s script. But later in the day Maria (played by Tatjana Pajkovic) is up and running around, dodging bullets again as if some sort of miracle cure had gotten her off her deathbed and back into a tight dress.
In short, if you have very high standards for this sort of thing, this movie will strike you as stupid. If you don’t really care one way or another, there are some fun, tense moments in this film. Despite everything, that is.