Remakes and reboots tend to come after about a generation after the original, typically about 30 years. Prior to the invention of affordable home entertainment, such as televisions, VCRs, and DVDs, the time allowed for a new generation to grow up and the previous generation to forget details about the original. With VCRs, DVDs, and streaming, the only limitation in getting an original work is availability. Studios may remove a work from being available, but while that may affect streaming services, physical media can still be played.
The remake is still a viable approach today, though. Breakthroughs in technology all for a new look at a work that is generally available in one for or another. Actors aging up or getting popular and thus more expensive does happen. No studio is going to get Tom Hanks for what he was paid when he starred in Bosom Buddies.
In 2002, Jason Statham starred in the French-produced film, The Transporter; his Frank Martin, the title character, was a breakout role for him. The movie was written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen and was directed by Corey Yeun and Louis Leterrier. Frank, in the movie, is a getaway driver for hire who calculates his role precisely. He has three rules; 1) once a deal is made, it is final; 2) no names; and 3) never open the package. The opening scene, where Frank is the getaway driver demonstrates the professionalism and preciseness he has. Three bank robbers need him after a robbery, but they break the deal by bringing a fourth. Frank refuses to leave until the fourth is dealt with. Once the fourth is gone, by being shot by his comrades, Frank begins his getaway.
Of course, a movie where nothing goes wrong will get dull. Frank breaks one of his rules during a job and opens the package. Turns out, he was transporting a young woman, Lai Kwai, played by Shu Qi. Frank still makes the delivery, but the guy who hired him, Darren Bettancourt (Matt Shulze), tries to eliminate loose ends. The explosion destroys Frank’s car, but not Frank, who was out of it at the time.
Since Bettancourt broke Frank’s first rule, never change a deal, by trying to kill him, Frank heads back to get vengeance. Bettancourt is out but his henchmen aren’t. When Frank is done Bettancourt’s villa, he has left behind broken and dead henchmen and taken Bettancourt’s car, where Shu Qi just happens to be. The action escalates as Bettancourt tries to kill Frank and Frank tries to get away. Car chases, martial arts sequences, including a fight on an oil-filled concrete floor where Frank is using bicycle pedals as skates, and gun fights lead to the breathless climax.
The plot of The Transporter is thin, but serves to deliver on the action. Audiences who saw the trailer came in with the expectation of an action flick, and that’s exactly what they got. An action flick with the stakes at the personal level. No threat to destroy the world, no corporation trying to upset democracy, just one man versus another and his henchmen. The movie would go on to have two sequels.
As mentioned above, remakes take about a generation. A remake of The Transporter would be expected anywhere between 2022 and 2042, but in 2015, Luc Besson, along with Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, penned The Transporter Refueled. Released by the same studio, the new film introduced a new Frank Martin, this time played by Ed Skrein. Joining Frank is his ex-spy father, Frank Sr, played by Ray Stevenson. The Refueled Frank has the same rules as the original. It’s when the rules are broken when things get interesting for Frank.
Frank’s latest job involves three women all dressed the same, all wearing the same wig. They need him to drive them away from a bank robbery, leading to a car chase that leaves several French police cars broken on the streets of Nice. The client, though, changes the deal by getting Frank’s father involved. Frank Sr is interested beyond just the need to get an antidote to a poison he was given. Frank Jr isn’t, sticking to his professional rules. Eventually, Frank Jr does involve himself, first for his father’s life and, when the poison turned out to be a hoax, to be able to live with himself.
Much like the original’s plot, the plot of Refueled is thin, an excuse for the action. The client is responsible for most of the motive behind the action, with Frank along for the ride, though once he decides to get involved, he has his own agency. Frank is given more background, from having a family member with him to hints of being a mercenary before becoming a getaway driver for hire. The antagonist has ties to Frank, having a shared past.
Skrein bring to the role of Frank the same energy Statham did in the original. Bioth portray Frank as professional in his dealings as a contract getaway driver. Skrein’s Frank also does not pick up a gun during the film, becoming a problem in a climactic fight. Frank, though, has no problems with picking up pipes, hoses, ropes, or axes when his opponents are armed. Frank is unique in the film in not using firearms; he’s the driver, not the muscle, though he can defend himself when needed.
Adding Frank Sr allowed the film to include a chemistry that was sparse in the original. While Statham’s Frank could sit down with Inspector Tarconi to talk, Skrein’s had a good relationship with his father, humanizing Frank and giving a contrast to his professional persona. The chemistry between Skrein and Stevenson works on screen to emphasize the relationship between the characters. Indeed, a film about Frank Sr would be interesting to see, either before his retirement as a spy or what he does after Refueled.
With Besson on board, Refueled has an anchor to the original. The plot would fit with Statham, even if some details would have to be changed. Skrein’s portrayal of Frank fits in with the previous films. Refueled isn’t deep, but it does deliver on the promise of action. As a reboot, The Transporter Refueled adds to the character without skimping on what audiences are expecting. Despite being an early reboot, the movie succeeds at being one.