Tepid ‘Transporter,’ wan ‘Walk,’ garrulous ‘Grandma’

FS, Contributing Writer

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The Transporter Refueled (wide release)
The three “Transporter” movies, released between 2002 and 2008, were instrumental in making Jason Statham an action star. It is unlikely that this uninspired reboot will do the same for Ed Skrein, who brings a stoic handsomeness but no charisma to the role of Frank Martin, the former soldier turned driver for wealthy passengers who need protection and speed in getting to their destinations.

In an effort to revive the moribund European franchise, Martin is saddled with a companion who gives him a good deal of professional trouble — his father (Roy Stevenson), a cheeky fellow and recently retired British spy who manages to get himself kidnapped twice, suggesting that his departure from the service might have been overdue.

The first time the old man gets snatched is by his son’s latest client, a femme fatale who, along with three equally seductive confederates, is conspiring to rob the Russian crime syndicate that controls prostitution on the French Riviera and had forced them all into the business years before. They take Martin’s father captive to compel his son to help them with their scheme.

Car chases and martial arts fights follow, with Martin acquitting himself well in both cases. There is a lot of mayhem, with so many police cars crashing and exploding that you have to assume the production company acquired them at fleet prices. After Martin’s dad is released from his initial captivity, the crooks kidnap him again in order to force his son and the conniving women to rescue him. This leads to a big confrontation on a yacht anchored in the gorgeous blue waters of the Mediterranean coast.

The locations are the best part of “The Transporter Refueled,” and though the cinematography is rather garish, the visuals are certainly superior to a screenplay that asks us to condemn the exploitation of women while simultaneously appealing to viewers’ prurient interests by repeatedly showing females in various states of undress.

This tasteless piece of Eurotrash from continental entrepreneur Luc Besson deserves to be scrapped.

A Walk in the Woods (wide release)
A humorous 1998 memoir by Bill Bryson is the basis for this easygoing but terribly predictable dramedy starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte as a couple of old Iowa buddies who have not seen one another in years but get together to traverse the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail.

It is mildly amusing to watch the two veteran actors play an aging odd couple — Redford the prim, fastidious, know-it-all Felix and Nolte the grizzled, grubby, hedonistic Oscar — as they stumble from adventure to adventure. They fall in with an insufferable young hiker, whom they finally ditch in desperation, a couple of local ladies looking for a bit more than conversation and a pair of bears that invade their campsite searching for food.

And frequently they simply fall: in streams, onto ledges and into mud. Occasionally, the sitcom slapstick is interrupted by sentimental episodes in which the men discuss the pleasures they have had in life, as well as their regrets over lost opportunities. And, of course, they pause from time to time merely to admire the beautiful scenery.

Although the movie is genial enough, it never veers off in a remotely unexpected direction. And so, while the stars make agreeable walking companions, they never take you anywhere particularly memorable.

This “walk” is innocuous and insubstantial.

Grandma (Magnolia)
At age 75, Lily Tomlin received the role of a lifetime in Paul Weitz’s oddball road movie, as an acerbic, often rude old lady — a largely forgotten feminist pioneer — who takes her granddaughter on a road trip to raise $600, which the girl needs by the end of the day. Tomlin has obvious fun acting bossy and irascible, and viewers, though not her fictional targets, will enjoy watching her eviscerate many of those she encounters.

Tomlin is especially winning in the episodes when she exhibits a degree of vulnerability as well as spleen. A reunion with an old flame, beautifully played by Sam Elliott, and a meeting with her own daughter, played by Marcia Gay Harden, are especially fine.

Some viewers may be offended by the reason behind the road trip in the first instance, which raises moral issues which receive admittedly cavalier treatment, and others may be disappointed that the film goes rather soft and mellow in the final reel.

But merely seeing Tomlin in full flower makes up in great measure for the lapses.

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