Movie review: 'Transporter Refueled' is running on empty

Ed Skrein stars in "The Transporter Refueled."
Ed Skrein stars in "The Transporter Refueled." (Bruno Calvo/EUROPACORP)

"The Transporter Refueled" opens without any credits but its title. I think I know why. Being associated with the film was such a career-crippling embarrassment that the cast and crew wanted to withhold their identities until the end, at which point most of the audience would have walked out. Refueled? It is running on empty from the start.

How dumb is it? The problems begin with the very opening scene, a flashback to years before when a ruthless Russian crime boss took control of prostitution on the Cote d'Azur. This involves machine-gunning several pimps, pulling the loveliest supermodel of their employees into a getaway car and driving off with evil smiles. According to the graphic title dating this prologue, it occurs in 1995. It then leaps to the present, noting that we now are "15 Years Later." Do the math.

The unfocused script swings around like a kid playing Whack-A-Mole. The outline of the plot is murky beyond measure. Frank, a tough chauffeur for secretive criminal activities, is approached by ravishing mystery woman Anna (Loan Chabanol) to transport a pair of packages from their resort's top bank. They involve identically disguised lovelies who have just ripped off the account of that nasty Russian, who now lives in luxury that a Bond villain would envy.

Their speedy exit triggers cascades of inexplicable results that fill the next 80 minutes with racing, crashes, jet-ski pursuits, plane hijacking, a gigantic dance club flattened with knockout gas, and countless fistfights between Frank (played by "Game of Thrones" alum Ed Skrein) and squads of clearly bored stuntmen. None of it adds up to a coherent narrative. None is exciting enough to hold your attention on its own. This is the kind of film where you can depart in the middle for a bathroom break and stay away as long as you like without losing the thread.

The film's female characters are entirely swanky prostitutes. A trio of them, who refer to themselves as the Three Musketeers, were swindled, mistreated, lied to, beaten and exploited, and have teamed up to give back as bad as they got. Their ongoing surprise attacks are simply triggers for clunky action sequences that appear to be edited with a blender. Since they communicate in elliptical shorthand dialogue, the driver doesn't comprehend their women's amazingly complicated schemes, and neither do viewers.

The only member of the acting company earning a bit of sympathy is a perversely game Ray Stevenson, playing Frank's capable dad who pursues steamy relationships with several of the much-ogled women and only calls his son "Junior."

This effort to revive the 13-year-old French-produced Jason Statham action series with a new team makes that so-so but successful original trilogy seem like a nonstop tour de force. It earns a rare zero-star rating not just because it is an utter waste of time, but because it is actually dangerous to viewers. This film is so stupid it may burst your appendix.


0 out of four stars

Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, sexual material, some language, a drug reference and thematic elements.

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