Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 96 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 14+. This is a pretty generic action movie, so the typical stuff is here: high-speed car chases; a lot of hand-to-hand fighting and violence, including some bloody fights and gunshot wounds; a plot point involving prostitution and sex trafficking; some kissing and implied sex scenes, including a threesome; some cursing and language; and adults drinking and smoking.
‘The Transporter Refueled’ is the latest installment in this 13-year-old franchise, but neither its new main actor nor its sex-trafficking storyline are compelling.
By Roxana Hadadi
The main character of “The Transporter Refueled,” the latest film in the franchise that once starred Jason Statham, isn’t a driver who will take anyone where they want to go, no questions asked, for an exorbitant fee. The real hero of the film is an Audi S8, and the product placement the car gets throughout this film is impressive—and a sign of how little effort is put into “The Transporter Refueled” overall.
Coming seven years after “The Transporter 3” and after onetime lead Statham has left for a bigger car-related franchise (he was the bad guy in this summer’s mega-successful and very fun “Furious 7”), “The Transporter Refueled” is a reboot inexplicably set in 2010, but still focused on the Frank Martin character, now played by Ed Skrein. Martin, ex-military, is living large in the French Riviera with his beloved father (Ray Stevenson, of “The Divergent Series: Insurgent”), rich off his driving gig and enjoying the luxuries of life. Being wealthy and attractive certainly is nice!
But then, one of Frank’s jobs goes wrong: The beautiful Anna (Loan Chabanol) forces Frank to become complicit in a series of bank heists performed by her and two other women, all former prostitutes forced into sex trafficking by the Russian pimp Arkady (Radivoje Bukvic, of “A Good Day to Die Hard”). The women want their revenge against what Arkady did to them (“I come from an impoverished village,” explains Anna as to how she was pushed into this life), and they’ve murdered his accountant as a starting point.
Frank doesn’t want to cooperate, but the girls somehow kidnap his dad, so he has no real choice. And as he helps the girls in their quest so he can save his father—who could die from poisoning if he doesn’t assist—Frank realizes that maybe Arkady deserves this blackmail, and maybe Anna deserves his attention. Of course, driving his car really, really fast and beating up bad guy after bad guy is the only way to get things done.
This year has seen a lot of bad action movies come and go—“Taken 3,” “Tracers,” “The Seventh Son”—and “The Transporter Refueled” isn’t so much terrible as it is average. Statham brought a wry humor and deadpan delivery to his performance of Martin, and while Skrein looks good shirtless, he doesn’t have any discernible personality. His romance with the Anna character is just two pretty people smooshing their faces together, not anything believable in terms of personal attraction.
What is most problematic about “The Transporter Refueled,” though, is how casually it uses sex trafficking as a plot point, without giving it any kind of real attention (a problem that has also plagued the “Taken” franchise). Anna and her comrades are presented as women forced into sexual slavery for the majority of their lives, but they run around town in skimpy outfits and platinum bond wigs, even falling into bed with Frank’s father and rewarding him with a threesome at one point. They’re minimized characters, and every female character in this film is a prostitute. Every single one! It’s disturbing, to say the least.
For parents taking teenage boys to the film, there are certainly conversations to be had about the film’s portrayal of women, and also perhaps about the common theme of sex trafficking coming up in these kinds of second-tier action films. Why is it so prevalent? What do young viewers actually think about it, if anything?
Teen viewers will probably pay more attention to the film’s set pieces (and admittedly, a fight scene where Martin uses cabinet drawers to fend off attackers is impressive, and a chase scene through an airport is also well done), but the blasé way with which “The Transporter Refueled” treats its most rotten plot element is irritating but unsurprising. This is a film that pays more attention to its flashy cars than its human characters.
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