The Transformer: Refueled isn’t the first action movie this year where plot is an afterthought, but there’s something almost winning about the film’s commitment to showcasing its action above anything else. We’re talking about a film where the series’ protagonist, Frank Martin (Ed Skrein, taking over for Jason Statham), manages to fly off a jet ski (feet first, for the record), and go straight into the villain’s passenger seat. A film where Frank blows up his car with a self-destruct remote, which then self-destructs as well. A film where Frank escapes the police by driving his car from the tarmac up a jetway and through a terminal, exiting out into the traffic in front of the airport and blending in like nothing just happened. Plausibility isn’t a reality of this world.
In its effort to create these ridiculous moments, though, the filmmakers have clearly been lazy on nearly every other front. The basic plot finds Frank serving as a getaway driver and worker for a group of prostitutes, led by a woman named Anna (Loan Chabanol), as they attempt to con the Russian men responsible for trafficking them on the French Riviera. In the film’s first sign of WTF? nonsense, the film shows the women first being dumped on the French Riviera in 1995, then flashes forward 15 years. Yes, the film is set in 2010, and yes, the technology is clearly more current.
To be clear, The Transporter Refueled is not a good film by any traditional metrics. There’s no attention paid to building characters, or to making sure the narrative follows any sort of logic, even a wholly internal one. Still, it’s mindlessly stupid in a way that’s at least entertaining, which can’t be said for all action films this summer. While it’s doubtful that the film would work better with Jason Statham back in the role, Skrein is at least capable of blending into the film and throwing himself into the action sequences. In a summer that also gave us one of the best action films ever, it’s a shame what’s essentially a lobotomized version of the film closes out the season. But it still could be worse.