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Movie Review

Traffic can be murder. Literally. And when it is, a guy like Frank Martin can come in handy.

To say Frank's a chauffeur is like saying Clark Kent is a reporter: It's true, but it doesn't really convey much about the man's actual skill set. Driving Miss Daisy? Hardly. This dude drives Misdemeanors. And Felonies. And sometimes International Incidents. He may not have a license to kill, but he sure seems to have found a whole lotta loopholes in his license to drive.

He's a former special-ops guy who has created a nice business niche for himself: Folks hire him to drive someone or something to a given destination. And … yeah, that's pretty much it. Still, he'll get there with his package. No matter what. No questions asked. He and his employers follow a stringent set of rules: Never talk about anyone's name or what being transported, never change the contract mid-job, and never be even a minute late.

Did I say stringent set of rules? Well … in the three previous Transporter movies (back when Frank bore a striking resemblance to Jason Statham), these rules had all the rigidity of overcooked spaghetti. But Frank's a new man now (looking quite a lot like Ed Skrein), and this time he'll stick to them. Right?

Right up until his newest clients—a bevy of high-class prostitutes all wearing the same blond wig—kidnap Frank's father. You can bet Frank will be asking a few questions about that.

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Positive Elements

OK, so kidnapping someone's pop is never a good thing. But these women are desperate. They've been working in the sex trade against their will for years—one woman since she was a preteen—and their drive to leave the ugly "profession" gives a cinematic voice to a heartbreaking, worldwide tragedy: human trafficking.

Abduction aside, Frank's father, Frank Sr., is only too happy to help these girls free themselves from their shackles. And when Junior is reluctant to chip in, Senior gives him a stern talking to. "Doesn't sound like the man I raised," he says. No, no it doesn't. So eventually they both risk their lives for these women—and the women sacrifice much for one another.

Spiritual Content

Frank Sr. tells his son that his wife was a "good Catholic," and it was important for her to be ceremonially buried when she died. But as for dear old dad, "Just throw me on the fire and feed me to the fish."

Sexual Content

Frank Sr.—again, apparently not taking too much umbrage at being kidnapped—has sex with two of his captors/his son's clients (at the same time). We see the threesome kiss and laugh and roll around in bed. (Sheets cover their most critical parts.) Frank Jr. has his own intimate encounter with one of the women—the apparent ringleader named Anna. They start to strip and caress. And we see them entwined afterwards.

The prostitutes also passionately kiss each other in private and (along with other women) in a nightclub. Anna says she loves the other two women.

Most of the ladies we see in The Transporter Refueled are dressed provocatively—often in curve-hugging, cleavage-baring dresses, but sometimes in nothing but revealing underwear. They change clothes in full view of male characters and the moviegoing audience. (Critical parts are again hidden.) Lingerie-clad women dance provocatively for the entertainment of men.

Prostitution, as already mentioned, plays a large role here. Aspects of it are talked about regularly. And it's clearly presented as awful in this flashback sequence: We see the movie's prime villain, Arkady Karasov, force a young Anna to smile for the customers. And Anna confesses to Frank Jr. that her mother literally sold her into prostitution when she was 12. There are references to intercourse and oral sex.

Violent Content

Frank Jr. does battle with a great many evil henchmen, attacking them with fists, feet, his head, axes, metal cords, desks, filing cabinets, gas canisters, shopping bags and (ironically) life preservers. He never flat-out kills anyone during these ferocious fisticuffs, knocking several unconscious. He tethers one man to a cord by his neck and sends two flying into the sea.

Other characters are more lethal. There are a handful of gunfights that leave prime players and nameless henchmen alike laying dead on the floor. One man is plugged several times by bullets, which kill him. A woman is strangled. A prostitute shoots two thugs in the forehead, then burns their corpses (along with an already-dead woman). One man uses a knife to wound Frank Jr. Another fires a bullet into a woman. She doesn't die, but only because Frank Sr. grotesquely pulls the bullet out of her body with a pair of tweezers and then staunches the bleeding with collected cobwebs. Remarkably, she's in good enough shape to have sex with Frank Sr. that very evening and then engage in another shootout the following day—with nary a cobweb lump showing underneath her formfitting getup.

The French police go through what might possibly be a literal score of vehicles trying to stop Frank Jr.'s automotive escapades. Cars crash, bang and bash, sometimes flying through the air, flipping end over end or thumping into civilian motorists. Frank Jr. causes several fire plugs to burst forth their watery bounty, sending pursuing motorcyclists sliding and colliding. Thugs empty several machine guns-worth of bullets into rival prostitutes and pimps. Club revelers are overcome by gas. Prostitutes claim to have poisoned Frank Sr. Women are slapped and threatened. Someone gets hit with a Taser.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word and about a dozen s-words. Also: "a--," "b--ch," "h---," "d--n" and "bloody." God's and Jesus' names are misused once or twice each.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Frank Sr. likes his drink. He buys a bottle of wine worth about €900, swigs vodka during a makeshift surgery and even drinks a beer apparently laced with poison. Other characters down wine, beer, champagne and whiskey. Champagne is laced with a knockout drug. There's a reference to a heroin overdose, and Anna recalls that people in her village often died from drinking and drugs.

Other Negative Elements

Frank Jr.'s business isn't strictly on the up-and-up, and he frequently tries to flee from authorities. Indeed, pretty much every activity shown here—be it performed by good guy or bad—falls outside the law in one way or another. Frank's father, when questioned by police, doesn't strictly lie … but certainly hides the truth (in an effort to keep his son safe).

Conclusion

Admittedly, it's a thankless exercise to go looking around for much of a moral in any of The Transporter movies. But if one is to glean any sort of message from The Transporter Refueled, it's about shining a light into the darkness of human trafficking—the debasement of human life, the degradation of women and men's efforts to repackage them into a simple, disposable commodity.

But the film quickly undercuts even that moral by the way it treats its own women. Yes, Anna designed the scheme (outlandish as it may be) that drives the action forward. Yes, the women here are seeking to reclaim their destiny, and they rely on their own skill and gumption to do so. And yet the four prime actresses we see here have all the character and human emotion of two-dimensional paper dolls. We learn next to nothing about them. We're barely even told their names.

Consistently objectifying them, the film encourages us to gawk and ogle as it dresses them up as lewd playthings who slink in and out of scenes like runway models. These are not living, breathing humans fighting for their lives. These are sexual toys destined to crawl into bed with both of the Franks. Is it sex still used as barter, payment for services rendered, or down-payment for services still to come? Or is it merely a cinematic triviality designed to sell movie tickets to too-eager men? Indeed, their lesbian interactions are far less about character development than they are about tapping into a heterosexual porn fantasy.

Mannequins at the Gap feel more human.

Which makes me ponder further the fact that at any given time, three of these women are dressed identically, in black dresses and blonde wigs—diminishing their meager individuality even more, and heightening the impression that they're simply things. Commodities. Did the filmmakers do this on purpose, to make some sort of meta-feminist counterpoint? Perhaps. But if so, they gave up far too quickly, giving in to the oh-so-Hollywood temptation to titillate instead of tell a tale.

The Transporter Refueled is more—which means less—than a piece of silly, late-summer theater filler. It's a loathsome exercise in rationalization. It seemingly seeks to condemn the shameful degradation of women while spending nearly two hours objectifying them. And not a movie this summer has made me feel worse just for watching it.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

PG-13

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Ed Skrein as Frank Martin; Ray Stevenson as Frank Sr.; Loan Chabanol as Anna; Gabriella Wright as Gina; Tatiana Pajkovic as Maria; Wenxia Yu as Qiao; Radivoje Bukvic as Arkady Karasov

Director

Camille Delamarre ( Brick Mansions)

Distributor

EuropaCorp

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

September 4, 2015

On Video

December 8, 2015

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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