There isn’t a single level on which this cheap, crass reboot/sequel/whatever-the-hell operates that isn’t a disaster. Often an embarrassing disaster. Very often a disaster so disgusting that, its endless 90-plus minutes later, I was in desperate need of a shower to get the ick off me.
The Jason Statham-as-a-badass-chauffeur action franchise was not demanding another installment; the first three films did only moderately well at the box office, and likely only off Statham’s popularity anyway. Yet here we are, Statham wisely nowhere in sight and his replacement, living underwear mannequin Ed Skein (Game of Thrones, The Sweeney) apparently doing his best to demonstrate to even Statham skeptics (like me) that the Stath actually does have some charisma and some personality. Skein can barely manage to look plausible as “that guy you can just barely make out behind the wheel” in any given car commercial. Which is extra ironic here, because Refuelled is little more than one long ad for a luxury car brand that I won’t mention unless they want to pay me for it to appear here. Director Camille Delamarre (Brick Mansions) — a protege of Luc Besson, at whose feet we can lay the blame for the existence of this series — may be happy to let his camera make love to the multiple cars of said brand that slink across the screen in a way that makes you to expect to then hear of a limited-time low-APR offer, no down payment required, but I’m mystified as to why any respectable automotive company would want its product associated with mass urban mayhem. “Share the road? Screw that. This is the car for the driver who demands to leave as much vehicular carnage and injury to innocent bystanders in his wake as possible.” It’s not a sexy sell.
Frank “The Transporter” Martin’s job this time — though he doesn’t know this when he accepts it, because it is his ridiculously dumbass policy to not ask any questions — is to be the getaway driver for a quartet of hookers who are robbing their Eastern European gangster boss (Radivoje Bukvic: Run All Night, A Good Day to Die Hard) of all his ill-gotten millions. And then Frank is forced to continue help them in what turns out to be an ongoing campaign against the mobster because they have kidnapped his father and threaten to kill him if Frank doesn’t do what they want. (Frank Sr. [Ray Stevenson: Insurgent, Big Game] is a former covert operative who must have been terrible at his job: nefarious types get the drop on him not once but twice here.) This campaign ends up relying on the fact that, it seems, absolutely nowhere in the French Riviera has any decent security: not banks, not hospitals, not airports. They are all able to stroll into any place that should be insanely secure and do what they like. And in case we are unable to grasp the “cleverness” of what the women are doing — such as all dressing alike and wearing the same wigs so as to be indistinguishable on CCTV — there are characters standing around waiting to explain these finer details for us. That’s in between other characters quoting Alexandre Dumas at one another, to show how smart they are, and to lend a laughable sheen of sophistication.
So there are all sorts of special kinds of stupid at work here. But worse are the things that are infuriatingly offensive. There isn’t a woman onscreen here who is not a prostitute. The four hitting back at the boss — played by Loan Chabanol (Fading Gigolo), Gabriella Wright, Tatiana Pajkovic, and Wenxia Yu — are barely characters, more like Barbie dolls with different hair (except when they’re all wearing the same wigs, of course). There’s nothing in their demeanor — barely even any genuine anger — that suggests that they’re out for revenge against their boss; the overall tenor is more like the three (male) screenwriters — Adam Cooper and Bill Collage (who both worked on Exodus: Gods and Kings and Tower Heist), and Besson (Lucy, 3 Days to Kill) — figured four prostitutes would look cool and sexy slinking around onscreen pulling heists. (And they do look sexy! Just like the luxury automobiles! A decade and a half of life on the streets does not impact a woman’s body or spirit, no siree!) They wear black lacy baby-dolls and spiked heels for hanging around out at their warehouse hideout. And they sure haven’t been turned off men, as Frank Jr. and Frank Sr. discover. Dad may think that being “sold into prostitution with death as your only way out is the worst thing that can happen to someone,” but that is no boner-killer for him: he’ll take two of the girls, please.
This was when I started to feel the need for a shower.
Where is Imperator Furiosa when we need her?