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THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED: 1 STAR. “Can the franchise survive?”

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 7.55.56 AMOne question hangs heavy over “The Transporter: Refueled” (sic), Can the franchise survive and thrive without its former star Jason Statham? The action hero drove off into the sunset after three instalments, leaving it up to “Game of Thrones” actor Ed Skrein to take his place. Can Skrein put the pedal to the metal or is the series headed to the junkyard?

Skrein is the Transporter. No names please, it only complicates things. He is a skilled driver who delivers packages for anyone who agrees with his rather stringent demands—no lateness, detailed weight restrictions and once the deal is made if the deal changes, he walks away.

Against the backdrop of the French Riviera the Transporter and his newly retired spy father Frank Martin Sr. (Ray Stevenson) soon finds themselves involved in a dangerous revenge plot against a vicious Russian pimp (Radivoje Bukvic) staged by Junior’s newest clients, four prostitutes willing to die to get away from their old lives.

“The Transporter: Refueled” is a slick looking movie that substitutes squealing tires for story. It adheres to the fight scene/car chase formula that drove the Statham’s “Transporter” triptych but the dark humour and the wink of the older films is missing. Skrein is all business, a grim-faced chauffeur who can take a punch and throw a kick with a wild style that would make Jackie Chan proud, but it all seems rather joyless. Stevenson has the charm to pull this off but is a secondary character, mostly left in the background.

Then there are the female revenge plot masterminds (Loan Chabanol, Tatiana Pajkovic and Gabriella Wright), the supposedly strong female characters at the heart of the movie. They are capable of pulling off a major heist and going-head-to-head with Russian bad guys but, for some reason, become freaked out squealing school girls at the prospect of driving through a gate secured only with a flimsy chain. Skrein simply frowns and gets on with the job but the women react as though they’re about to jump off a cliff and later, jump into bed with their rescuers as a sign of gratitude.

Some grrrl power.

But what did I expect? Ten minutes in it’s clear why “The Transporter: Refueled” isn’t in 3D. It’s because the characters are so one-dimensional they simply couldn’t exist in three dimensions. Instead they are cartoons, existing in a world where you’re shot, near dead one day, wearing a tight dress and kicking butt the next.

“The Transporter: Refueled” is a silly movie, and that’s OK, lots of silly movies are entertaining and worth your money. Unfortunately “The Transporter: Refueled” isn’t one of them.

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