‘The Transporter: Refueled’

Grade: B

Verdict: Fun and efficient, the new Transporter delivers some good chases to bring a checkered flag to the summer.

My earliest movie memory is an opening sequence: a grandfather is teaching his grandson to skip stones on a lake, while, not far from there, a red Lamborghini tries to evade a fleet of cops. When the chase hits a dirt road, the Lamborghini goes over a jump and falls into the lake. Its speed allows it to skip across just like a stone would, making its way to the other margin. Grandfather and grandson watch in awe.

That was “Speed Zone,” a 1987 film the Brazilian TV would show often in its daily movie block “Sessão da Tarde” (the Afternoon Session), during the late 1990s. As a 6-year-old living in Brazil who’s a car fanatic, I was glued to the screen from start to end.

While watching the opening sequences of “The Transporter: Refueled,” it was impossible not to remember that movie. The difference is that the first few sequences of this new “Transporter” are much better and more refined than the one I hold dearly in my heart.

Despite the simple, beaten plot and the solid but not great acting, I couldn’t help but leave the theatre excited and nostalgic at the same time.

The film shows Frank Martin, a professional driver who transports people and objects, as long as he doesn’t exchange names nor know details about those shipments.

When he is hired by a woman to drive her to another city, he ends up caught amidst a revenge plan of four prostitutes against their pimp, a powerful millionaire. Frank arrives to the set location only to find he is not carrying only one woman: he is carrying four, and they are stealing from a bank. His strict rules have been broken, and he wants to find his way out of this situation. One thing, however, forces him to stay: these women have kidnapped his father.

The film does not have a strong first scene, compared to the subsequent ones. The opening shows the prostitution in the French Riviera, introducing us to these women and their pimp, but the pace feels too slow and overdramatic for an action film. What works well is the next scene, which presents us with two of our characters: his black Audi S8, sitting alone and beautiful in a garage, and Frank. The camera work here is on point: as we slowly approach the Audi from one side, Frank approaches it from the other. This parallel game is interesting and effective.

“Transporter: Refueled” does all the things Hitman: Agent 44 (which I reviewed here a few weeks ago) failed to do. For one, Transporter shows us who Frank is and the father he loves. Their relationship is well-established and when Frank sees his dad kidnapped by the escort girls, his mission becomes even more important. It is not only another client. Frank must now do this for his father.

This personal component turns the collection of chases and action sequences into something more meaningful that we can root for.

Cutting to the car chases, they are all extremely well-shot and edited, especially the first one. Frank’s Audi drifting from street to street in wide shots is both thrilling and pretty to watch. These wide shots give us the perspective of the entire action sequence, making the entire scene feel realistic, instead of quick close-up cuts that seem staged in a studio (as the chases in Hitman seemed like).

Playing Frank, actor Ed Skrein does a nice job balancing the cold wheelman and the son who must save his father. There aren’t any complicated dramatic scenes to push Skrein further, causing his acting to slowly feel flat as the film wears on. Based on the script he is given though, the role is solid.

“Transporter: Refueled” is, overall, a nice closing to the summer blockbuster season. It isn’t “Furious 7”: things here are much simpler in story and character terms. However, the chases are exciting, aided by good camera and editing work.

My love for cinema goes much beyond a chase scene. But, if like me, the passion for speed and cars also occupy a place in your heart, you sometimes want a movie like “Transporter”. And this is a good one to enjoy.

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