Can stupid be an aesthetic? The Transporter: Refueled, the Jason Statham-less fourth entry in EuropaCorp’s signature franchise, may be the hands-down dumbest movie of the year—an unnecessarily convoluted chase-heist-product-placement flick that climaxes with the hero flying feet-first off of a jet ski and straight into the passenger seat of the villain’s G-Class Mercedes. By this point, of course, suit-and-tie-clad courier Frank Martin has already fended off goons with a medieval battle ax, blown up an Audi with a self-destruct remote that proceeded to also self-destruct, impersonated a doctor, and gotten away from the cops by driving his car up a jetway and straight through a terminal, blending into the sparse taxi traffic of an airport arrivals lane as though it were no big deal.
Refueled isn’t a good movie by most metrics, but it is consistently committed to mainlining the basest action-movie pleasures at the expense of damn near everything else. It’s visual party music—a just-over-90-minute mix of martial arts, unconvincing disguises, club scenes, and exercises in cartoon physics that would seem over-the-top in a latter-day Fast And Furious movie. Like a kind of lobotomized Mad Max: Fury Road, the movie finds Frank (Ed Skrein, in the role that helped make Statham a star) serving as little more than getaway driver and hired muscle for four prostitutes—headed by one Anna (Loan Chabanol)—as they try to outwit the Russian crime lord who trafficked them to the French Riviera. For reasons that remain unclear, the movie is set in 2010.
EuropaCorp’s action movies have always been flagrantly derivative, and, at this point, the Luc Besson-led French studio is essentially making knockoffs of its own hits. Director Camille Delamarre—who, like many EuropaCorp helmers, worked his way up from a crew position—made last year’s Brick Mansions, a remake of the studio’s earlier District B13, which was itself a kind of inverted, parkour-ified Assault On Precinct 13. Here, he’s given a sequel that’s also a reboot, and which draws broadly on everything from Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung movies to Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, going so far as to give Frank a mischief-making, continually imperiled dad (Ray Stevenson) who insists on calling him “Junior.”
Whatever The Transporter: Refueled lacks in originality, subtlety, narrative sense, star power, intelligence, and grace, in almost makes up for in goofball entertainment value. Skrein lacks both Statham’s physicality and his knack for making groan-worthy dialogue sound good, so instead the movie obscures his limited screen presence behind non-stop, ludicrous action, be it a fight between two rows of filing cabinets—with Frank knocking thugs upside the head with rolling drawers—or a chase that finds our hero clipping the caps off four fire hydrants in a single turn.
Supposedly tense countdowns bear little relation to screen time, onlookers ignore bullet-riddled corpses and kidnappings-in-progress as though they were open-world-game NPCs, and every character appears to be extraordinarily gullible. And, as is sometimes the case in movies this consistently and willfully dumb, The Transporter: Refueled occasionally hits upon the logic of a dream, as in the scene where three of Frank’s clients, dressed in identical dresses and platinum blonde wigs, don matching gas masks and wander a dance floor piled with club-goers knocked out by sleeping gas—an image that suggests Les Vampires by way of Spring Breakers.