The Transporter Refueled
Christian Movie Review
We’re knee-deep into the slow season of the movie release schedule — that low point in the year in between the busy summer and Christmas box-office where we find plenty of movies that are of, well, questionable quality. There are plenty of exceptions to that rule, of course. I’ve seen some fantastic movies in the off-season that surprised me. (And, interestingly, January, a month that used to be the lowest of the low point of the box-office year is now becoming a hot spot. More on that in another article.) September, however, still seems to be a dead spot in the year, especially the early weeks of the month when everyone is going back to school.
In this September action movie, “The Transporter Refueled” doesn’t fare well in its screenplay, even though it has some strengths in its action scenes and in its heroes. More on that in a moment, but first…
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance for this PG-13 rated film…
Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality and Romance: There are four or five scenes with women dancing for men in very skimpy lingerie. In one such scene, the woman embraces a man and they tumble onto a bed and sex is implied (though nothing else is shown). A couple scenes show a woman making out with another woman. Casual sex outside of marriage is glorified when the hero of the film beds one of the women bank robbers. However, the film also portrays the prostitution world of human trafficking in a very negative light. We see prostitutes standing on the sidewalks trying to get customers, but the film highlights the pain and darkness that fills that lifestyle, and a male character observes that such a life — human trafficking and prostitution — is “the worst it gets” in this world.
Violence/Gore/Scary Content: It pushes the boundaries for PG-13. We see people shot in the head at close range, and we see the bullet wounds appear on their foreheads. A woman’s dead body is shown. The charred corpses of other characters are shown in great detail on the tables of a morgue. A woman is shot in the abdomen, and we see blood pumping out of her body, and she is going into convulsions as they try to apply pressure to the wound.
Language: No f-words. All the other “minor” swear words (s-words, b-words, etc.) are consistently scattered throughout the film.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: People are seen drinking and smoking in a variety of scenes.
(Review continues below)
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft
“The Transporter Refueled” is as straight-forward an action movie as you can get. There’s nothing new that happens here, though there were some interesting possibilities that were left unexplored in the script. The stale commercial formula for action movies plowed over any of those possibilities, and the movie felt like a missed opportunity, though it does have some especially nice hand-to-hand combat scenes (Ed Skrein, the actor who plays the hero Frank Martin, is a great fighter). The hero had some interesting personality tendencies — almost reminding me of an interesting cross between the OCD Sheldon from “Big Bang Theory” and James Bond. But the film leaves those interesting traits largely unexplored.
I also thought the father-son teamwork was interesting and somewhat rare for any movie, but the script’s Lowest Common Denominator laziness trampled over the interesting father-son dynamic. The whole woman-sold-into-human-trafficking-and-coming-back-for-revenge plot was actually a very strong idea. It was sort of a modern retelling of the classic “Count of Monte Cristo” formula, but this strong idea was crippled by a weak script. The strengths weren’t enough to overcome a script that felt dumbed down by a lazy pre-packaged commercial formula. It was frustrating. There were some really good ideas in the screenplay that had great potential, but those ideas stayed at very shallow depths.
Though it’s always fun to see a movie that features the exotic setting of the French Riviera. I enjoyed all of the aerial shots and some of the external settings.
Entertainment value/film craft rating for “The Transporter Refueled”: [usr 4]
Worldviews, Subtext, Symbolism, Themes of Redemption, Social Commentary, the Question of “Spiritual Edification,” Etc.
The hero’s father mentions how the hero’s late mother was a good Catholic, but he didn’t want any of that for his funeral but wanted to be cremated. That’s about as deep as it gets, as far as any overt discussion of religion, spirituality, or philosophy — not that a movie has to have an overt discussion of those things to make a statement on them, but this movie wasn’t made for that sort of discussion, whether on an obvious level or on a deeper level between the lines. It was made for bullets, fast cars, lingerie, and quick bucks at the box-office.
Despite the obvious cash grab of this film, I can’t help but like some things in it too. For example, when the hero, a former soldier who fought honorably for his country, doesn’t want to get involved in a deadly conflict to help women who were sold into human trafficking, his father says “That’s not the man I raised you to be. That’s not what a soldier would do.” The son r
eplies angrily that he doesn’t owe anybody anything. He fought honorably for his country, and his country repaid him with dishonor and other negative experiences. And then the father delivers the best line of the movie: “That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do the right thing.”
And that’s my favorite element of the movie’s outlook. It has a conscience when it comes to the question, “Should I lay my life down for these strangers who are clearly in trouble or should I just go about my business?” In that sense this film has the heart of the Good Samaritan. It shows a little bit of the horror of human trafficking (just a small, sanitized glimpse), and it looks very negatively on those things. And, ultimately, the hero chooses to help these people get out of that hell, even if it costs him his life. So in the hero and in the hero’s father we find inspiring examples of selflessness.
But to get to those inspiring moments you have to wade through plenty of violence and scenes slathered with sort of a glitzy, commercialized sexuality (which seemed to be there for commercial, not artistic, reasons, though that’s just my personal opinion, of course; I can’t claim to know what motivated the filmmakers.)
Conclusion: The Hero and His Father Have a Heart of Gold, but the Film is a Missed Opportunity
Although I like many of the ideas in the script, and though the hero makes some very selfless choices that give the film a Good Samaritan feel, its lazy reliance on commercial-friendly formulas and other lower caliber production values made this action movie a missed opportunity.
Note about my rating system for the movie’s film craft and entertainment value:
1 star = one of the worst movies ever made (the stuff of bad movie legends), and it usually (not always) has below 10% on Rotten Tomatoes
2-3 stars = a mostly bad movie that has a handful of nice moments; it usually falls between 10-30% on Rotten Tomatoes
4-6 stars = a decent movie with some flaws, overall. Four stars mean its flaws outweigh the good. Five stars mean equal good, equal bad. Six stars mean it’s a fairly good movie, with some great moments even, that outweigh a few flaws. A 4-6 star rating usually means it falls between 30-59% on Rotten Tomatoes (but not always).
7-9 stars = a rare rating reserved only for the best movies of that year; and a film must have a Fresh Tomato rating (60% or higher) on Rotten Tomatoes to be given 7 stars or higher, with a few exceptions (if I strongly disagree with the critics).
10 stars = one of the best films of all time, right up there with the all-time greats (i.e. Casablanca, The African Queen, Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars Episode IV, Indiana Jones, etc.).
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