Wednesday 2 September 2015

The Transporter Refueled ... Running out of gas

AFTER watching French director Camille Delamarre's The Transporter Refueled, I got the feeling that I had watched a lower-end version of Mad Max: Fury Road. Just like the latter, the former is supposedly about a man leading the action, when it's actually a woman who's pulling the strings.
   But that is where all similarities end. While the latter is smart, energetic and visually stunning, the former is lame, tired and repetitive.

   Viewers must believe that self-centered chauffeur Frank Martin (Ed Skrein, replacing Jason Statham) has a change of heart and saves four prostitutes who are bent on exacting revenge on a sex trafficker.
   Skrein, who's from London, is one of those guys whose action speaks louder than words and looks handsome with a chiselled body.
    His character is a former special forces operative (he drove a truck) who now works as a driver who delivers people or packages in sleek Audis.
    He doesn't want to know his customers' names (plausible deniability), which is perfect in his line of work as he deals with people of dubious characters. He learns not to stick his nose into other people's affairs. In return, he's well paid and gets a great pad in the French Riviera.
   His father, Frank Sr (Ray Stevenson), is a smooth chameleon with expensive taste. He likes wine and has a soft spot for pretty young women. Father and son don't know each other's real job, with Frank Sr claiming he works for Evian but has ended up in troublesome hotspots over the decades.
   He has left Britain to visit his son, saying there's nothing at home after the death of his good Catholic wife.
   There's an underlying tension between father and son, and one theme of this film is the unusual relationship between them, which is resolved when father and son go through a multitude of
Ed Skrein and Loan Chabanol sleep on it. 
harrowing events.
   In return, Frank Sr will be the one who cajoles his hunky son to do the right thing.
   Frank, stoically dressed in a black suit, is presented as a man with integrity. A baddie taunts him for keeping strictly to the straight and narrow while working in special ops, refusing to make dirty money while his colleagues ran riot.
   The four prostitutes who decide to break free from the chains enslaving them are led by Anna (French actress Loan Chabanol).
   Anna is the brains of the quartet, and she embodies the New Age woman with her piercing good looks and meticulous personality.
   At first, it appears that she and the others just want to punish Russian sex trafficker Arkady (Radivoje Bukvic of Taken).
   She and the other women rob millions from Arkady and his two partners.
    The French Riviera portrayed in the film is like the city of Paris portrayed in Taken, written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. Besson and Kamen are credited with coming up with the characters in The Transporter Refueled. There's an underbelly of dirt in both films.
   In Taken, Albanian gangs abduct female visitors to Paris and force them into drug-induced prostitution. The police are ineffectual and under the gangs' thumb.
  In The Transporter Refueled, Russian gangs have a free hand in the French Riviera sex trade. Arkady and his two cohorts gain a foothold in the trade in 1995 by gunning down a black gang's prostitutes and installing their prostitutes.
   An adult Anna reveals that her mum had sold  her off at 12 for $500. She jokingly says that she should have been sold for $600. "Do you know what it feels like to be treated like trash?" she tells Frank.
  While the film shows the four prostitutes' attempt to escape their past, it doesn't tackle the problem at its source, that is, what can society do to prevent this from happening to 12-year-old girls.
   Another problem with the film is the depiction of the four prostitutes as super agents.
  While viewers would empathise with the women's situation, they'd have a hard time believing that the four could pull off three robberies with the precision of British special forces or US Rangers.
  Frank, meanwhile, goes through the motions in beating up baddies and speeding through the streets in his Audi S8.
   For the fight scenes, I believe Statham would have disposed of the baddies with more flair and venom, although one scene of Frank fighting baddies in a narrow corridor lined with drawers shows imagination and verve similar to that of Jackie Chan's fighting scenes.
  As for the car chases, I was more impressed with the car's gadgets.
2 out of 5 stars

Loan Chabanol in her LBD.

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