The Transporter Refueled, fourth in the Transporter series and no sign of Jason Statham anywhere, just hit theaters today. Touted as a reboot of a franchise I didn’t think many people cared about, this movie isn’t just boring… it’s also woefully sexist and out-of-date. “But Giaco,” you may be squealing, “I don’t go to action movies to engage in social discourse.” Okay, I get that, but you went to Mad Max: Fury Road, and you had a good time there, right? So movies can be all about driving fast cars and shooting people and still do right by their female characters/audience, right? We’re living in a post-Fury world now, and action movies like The Transporter Refueled are going to have to catch up.
Starring Ed Skrein (Game of Thrones’ first Daario Naharis), the movie follows the transporter Frank, an expert driver who takes on dangerous driving and delivery jobs for high sums of money. In the story Frank takes a job from Loan Chabanol’s Anna, a prostitute seeking to break free from her pimp Arkady (Radivoje Bukvic). She and her friends rig up overly-elaborate heists in an attempt to free themselves from the thumb of Arkady, and in the process kidnap Frank’s dad, Frank Senior (Ray Stevenson) to force Frank to help them out. The plot twists and turns only slightly, and this sagging movie is buoyed mercifully by a few interesting set-pieces.
Trigger warning: The movie’s premise is done in shockingly bad taste, and I’m going to talk about some subject matter (aka the plot of this stupid film) that may be upsetting to people who have lived through experiences similar to this. Anna and her friends have been prostituted out by Arkady and his thugs from the time they were twelve. Human sex trafficing is terrible, and it’s a heavy subject that deserves a lot of time, care, and attention paid to it. This movie uses it as an easy way to get its heroines up and on the move, escaping from the movie’s captor. After Anna tells Frank about a heartbreaking story where her mother sold her to the pimp for $500, she smiles ruefully and says “I think she could have gotten $600, don’t you?” This type of throwaway treatment of a character’s tragic, rape-culture perpetuating backstory isn’t just in poor taste, it’s toxic. Ask a person who’s actually been sold into prostitution at age twelve if they’d make a similar joke.
But here’s the real problem, we’ve got our prostitute characters trying to break free (just like in Mad Max, you say? Not quite.), and we’re told that the pimps are bad guys. The problem is that we’re also clearly supposed to envy their lifestyle! We see the pimps on a yacht, sipping scotch, as women shake and gyrate all around them. We see closeups of their butts, we see them men ogle them. But we have to assume that these women are their prostitutes that they have bought! Sex work is, of course, never as cut-and-dry as mass media wants you to think it is, but in the world of this film, it alls comes off as sleazy and forced. It pretends to care about its four female leads, but most of them die or are physically wounded by the end of the movie, while our two boys (Frank and Frank Jr.) get away with nary a scratch. When, at the end of the movie, Arkady in anger shouts something that I swear was “I’m gonna rape you all.” I checked out, and I’m urging you all to not just not see this movie, but to tell everyone you know that it’s a pile of insensitive garbage.
There’s almost nothing to like about this movie. Even if you’re a jerk and don’t care about all the terrible, out-of-date sexism in this movie, it still slogs along. Information is spouted and repeated that we’ve already learned by watching the movie with our eyes. The action isn’t dynamic: we see a police car flip and smash in the first driving sequence, and then another, and another, and another. The vehicle stunts coordinator must only know how to flip police cars, because we see about 20 flip throughout the movie. The hand-to-hand fighting is supposed to seem cool, but it’s all shot in that super-quick, super-choppy editing that Jackie Chan hates.
Don’t see this movie. It sucks. It’s politics suck. It doesn’t care about it’s female leads. It doesn’t care about you. Worst movie of the summer. Shut the door, close the trunk, drive away.