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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Transporter Refueled, Review: Fuel efficient and fired up

Transporter Refueled, Review: Fuel efficient and fired up

Originally titled The Transporter Legacy, the film’s French title remains Le Transporteur: Héritage, while in American English, it is Transporter Refueled. It is the fourth film in the Transporter franchise, with Ed Skrein replacing three-timer Jason Statham in the title role of Frank Martin, a move that a lot of Statham fans have found hard to digest. The first Transporter movie (2002) was a moderate success. It spawned two sequels and a television series (with Chris Vance portraying Martin). Part 4 is a prequel of sorts.

Having a getaway car driver as its central character, glorified with the moniker of Transporter (imagine being called Chauffer or Driver!), the Fuel in the title adds fire to the project! The film has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA, for sequences of violence and action, sexual material (mostly seen as mere blurs in the Indian release), some language, a drug reference, and thematic elements. But two things that Transporter Refueled does not lack are exciting action and breakneck pace, two elements that characterise most Statham films.

Frank Martin (Skrein) is known as The Transporter, because he is the best driver, and mercenary, money can buy. A former special-ops mercenary, Frank is now living a less perilous life--or so he thinks—on the French Riviera, transporting classified packages for questionable people. Frank is engaged by a cunning femme-fatale, Anna (Loan Chabanol), a former street hooker, and her three seductive sidekicks, Gina, Maria and Qiao (Gabriella Wright, Tatiana Pajkovoc and Weng Xia-Yu), all former prostitutes. They initially want him to play his part in an orchestrated bank fraud, and eventually, to help them get even with their prostitution racketeer boss, Arkady Karasov (Radivoje Bukvic) and his former gang-members (all Russians) Yuri (Yuri Kolokolnikov), Leo Imasova (Lenn Kudrjawizki) and Stanislas Turgin (Anatole Taubman). When he turns down the second offer, his father, Frank Senior, a retired British covert operative, is kidnapped and used as bait to convince Frank Jr.

Transporter Refueled is written by Adam Cooper (Accepted, Tower Heist), Bill Collage (Accepted, Tower Heist) and Luc Besson (Taxi, 2-3-4, Taken), based upon characters created by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen (a California wine-maker who also writes films, like Karate Kid, Taken, Fifth Element and Lethal Weapon III). It is set in picturesque Southern France locales, in sharp contrast with the mass destruction of cars and property that dot the narrative. Prostitutes avenging being forced into the trade and accompanying loss of innocence is not a novel theme, but by giving that entire exercise some unusual twists, the writers add some novelty.

Not all of it is smooth going, though! A greedy motive for the female protagonist that demeans the concept of noble revenge, a ex-covert operative father who gets kidnapped twice at the drop of a …wine bottle, and a hard-nosed French Police Inspector who sound like he means business but ends-up without getting even ‘venture capital’, are pot-holes that needed much better writing to avoid. Such smart writing is found in some other scenes in this very film, like the methods used to obtain fingerprints and the climactic surprises. Most of the profound one-liners are of the lofty kind, trying to give the professions, of special operations and amoral mercenary activity, some kind of moral validation.

Assisted by some striking camera angles and a competent stunt team, editor-turned-director Camille Delamarre (Brick Mansion, editor on Taken 2, Transporter 3, Colombiana) manages to keep the audiences engaged. He is the fourth person to wield the megaphone for the series. Action is superfast, which makes it difficult to follow who is doing what to whom. Besides, it is almost always one-sided, and when it is not, it only prolongs or repeats the same moves, before declaring the favourite as winner. Cars are sent crashing by the dozen, mostly police cars at that. Crash-starting the roadside hydrants, the car moving slowly on auto-pilot while Frank Jr. attends to the ‘obstructers’, and a getaway car getting of the tarmac and leaping through an aerobridge, landing inside the airport, are thrills to applaud. The Frank Sr. and Frank Jr. father-son track, replete with a young woman and the old man getting intimate, remind you of Sean Connery and Harrison Ford of Indiana Jones fame, though not quite in the same league.

Ed Skrein (Ill Manors, Goldfish, Tiger House, villain in upcoming Deadpool) is no Jason Statham. He has some similarities in his ruggedness, but none in the facials features of the voice. His voice, in fact, is so full of bass that it could pass off as a hiss (take the ‘rap’, rapper Skrein). As a man interested in just doing his job and refusing to get into anything except the money he would make, he is aptly deadpan. Emotions do register in some scenes with his father. On the other hand, he goes through the start-stop-start-stop mayhem of clobbering man after man, with supreme assurance from the script he’s read, to the effect that he is indestructible.

Loan Chabanol (born in France; of Vietnamese, German, and Italian descent; debut-Fading Gigolo, Third Person) is mechanical, with her age not clearly established. She gets one scene, when she narrates the story of her past, to deliver limited histrionics. Ray Stevenson (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Thor: The Dark World, Divergent) gets to deliver many of the one-liners, both flippant and meaningful, and the conversations between him and his son come across as fairly realistic; if only they had more relevance to the story. He looks unconvincing when getting romantic with one of his captors.

Gabriella Wright, Tatiana Pajkovic and Wen Xia-Yu get almost equal footage, and at least one scene each to perform, with Tatiana as the Basque-born girl, who falls for Frank Sr., striking an emotion-charged chord. Samir Guesmi plays Inspector Bectaoui, a role and an actor that deserved much better than the perfunctory way it/he is treated. The bad guys are played by Radivoje Bukvic, Yuri Kolokolnikov, Lenn Kudrjawizki and Anatole Taubman, with a range of looks that span similarity to Jason Statham (Bukvic) and one baby-face. Noémie Lenoir is cast as Bukvic’s moll.

Swanky and souped-up cars, an aeroplane, a yatch, a speed-boat, a ski-jet, and a dozen motor-cycles …you name it, Transporter’s got it. If you cannot imagine a Transporter film without Jason Statham, don’t bother wasting your time and money. If tales of thrilling sweet vendetta and ‘outta my way’ violent justice give you adrenaline rushes, get into your transport and head for the fuelling…oops…filling station!

Rating: ***


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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