It’s been 7 years since we’ve been given the pleasure of watching a new installment in The Transporter series. Yet here we are, with a new lead actor, a new package, and a new vehicle – all waiting to be taken out for a spin. Most franchises would be crushed under the weight of such changes, and losing Jason Statham would definitely seem like a big loss to the franchise that helped make him a star. Thankfully, The Transporter Refueled is entertaining enough that it should keep the franchise going for a little longer, all thanks to the relationship between Frank Martin and his dad.
It’s 2010 and Frank Martin (Ed Skrein), Transporter extraordinaire, is dealing with his greatest challenge yet: the retirement of his father (Ray Stevenson). Just as the two are settling into a sort of father/son groove, Frank Jr. is called in for a job. What begins as a routine mission turns into a personal quest, as his father is dragged into a messy scenario involving a prostitution ring, bank robbery, and some fast driving of various vehicles.
Let’s just get the obvious out of the way: Ed Skrein isn’t Jason Statham. His build, his demeanor, even his general facial structure isn’t even close to the man who originated Frank Martin back in 2002. That said, it’s not a particularly bad thing -- as the character of Frank Martin really doesn’t require a Statham clone to inhabit it, so long as the actor playing the character is good at fighting and quipping. Skrein is great at both, and manages to command the film in his own way, making the franchise his own in the process. Where he shines best, though, is the interactions with The Transporter Refueled’s MVP, Ray Stevenson. The father/son dynamic harkens back to that of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, as Stevenson’s Frank Martin Sr. holds his own during the adventure, and isn’t afraid to call his son junior when in the heat of action.
While the Martin boys make this film a blast to watch, the pacing and overall excitement of The Transporter Refueled are inferior to the previous installments. In particular, the car chases in the film aren’t as spectacular or insane as we’ve gotten used to. Save for one fun sequence with Martin’s car and a French Riviera airport, the vehicular insanity seems to have left this franchise and followed Jason Statham to Furious 7. Still, the car stunts are serviceable, and the film’s story is strong enough to form a thin narrative that carries the film from beginning to end. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the character interactions in The Transporter Refueled, the whole film would fall flat on its face.
The Transporter Refueled is not a perfect movie, nor is it a complete disaster. With Hitman: Agent 47 trying to pretend it was a EuropaCorp action thriller, it’s good to see the master return to school the novice. The franchise that Statham built is still standing with this installment that ranks in slightly above “good enough,” but it leaves the series open for a lot of improvement. Should there be another Transporter film, here’s hoping that Ed Skrein and Ray Stevenson are both brought back, as this father and son ass-kicking team could make for some seriously fun adventure.