Fast and furious

If there had to be a reboot/ rehash/redux of the Transporter franchise, then The Transporter: Refueled is certainly more entertaining than one would expect. It’s easy to laugh at a film like this, but one of the more pleasant surprises is that Transporter: Refueled laughs at itself, too.

Whether he refused or was replaced, Jason Statham hands the keys over to “Game of Thrones” alumnus Ed Skrein, assuming the role of titular Transporter, Frank Martin. Given that Daniel Craig’s reported impending abdication of James Bond, might Skrein’s performance here might be something of an audition?

Frank is hired by Anna (Loan Chabonol, a real looker who much resembles Isabelle Adjani) to assist her in bringing down Karasov (Radivoje Bukvic), the Euro-trash crime czar who made his fortune in human trafficking. By sheer coincidence – don’t you believe it – Frank and Karasov also share a past as Special Forces operatives. (Guess who got the honorable discharge and who didn’t.)

Under Camille Delamarre’s direction, Transporter: Refueled trots out the standard trappings: Hot cars, hot girls, fastpaced action (both vehicular and martialarts), and gorgeous locations along the French Riviera that are eventually littered with bodies and wreckage. The film does push the boundaries of its PG-13 rating to the limit in its mindless mayhem.

Ray Stevenson, clearly enjoying himself, is a delight as Frank’s father – yes, Frank Sr. – a newly retired diplomat who’s no slouch in the trenches himself, aiding and abetting his son’s mission while proffering paternal advice and flirting with Anna’s comely cohorts, although he does have a tendency to be abducted.

Despite a few opportunities (including the underrated Kill the Irishman), Stevenson never quite scored as a bigscreen leading man, but he’s settling very comfortably into middle-aged character parts, and his scene-stealing turn here indicates that his best film work may yet be ahead of him.

The vodka is by Grey Goose, Frank’s wristwatch by Omega, and his car (really the star of the show) is by Audi, an S8 to be exact — a remarkable feat of automotive engineering that crashes through metal fences, glass windows and even an airport terminal looking as clean and polished if it’s just come out of the showroom. You almost expect an off-screen announcer inviting you to take a test drive today.

Brando speaks

During his life, the actor Marlon Brando (1924-2004) was noted as much for his intense reclusiveness as the brilliance of his work. In various interviews over the years, which became fewer and fewer later in his life, he tended to play the part of eccentric actor, embellishing and exaggerating and putting on a character.

In writer/director/editor Stevan Larner’s award-winning documentary, Listen to Me Marlon, the man considered by some to be the greatest American actor of the 20 th century has a belated opportunity to speak for himself, in his own words, and offer a glimpse into the person behind the persona – thanks to a massive collection of previously unheard (and very personal) cassette recordings Brando made himself.

There are selections from vintage interviews, archival news footage and clips from many of the actor’s most famous roles (A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, The Godfather, Last Tango in Paris and, well, Superman and The Formula), but of course the true fascination lies in Brando’s thoughts and observations, not just about his work but his life.

He expounds upon the craft of acting and offers tribute to his acting teacher (and surrogate mother) Stella Adler, herself glimpsed in archival clips – including one being interviewed by future “Hogan’s Heroes” star Bob Crane (!). He also touches upon his political and social activism, and simple, random observations about the world around him.

“Acting is surviving,” Brando says at one point, yet this seems ironic in retrospect, given his increasing, almost pathological, desire for privacy and his increasing disdain for celebrity – which often, and unfortunately, came through in his later performances, only a precious few of which ranked with his better work. When he states that Francis Ford Coppola “ruined” Apocalypse Now (1979), the complaint rings hollow empty given his wildly uneven performance in the role of Kurtz, although there are those who maintain his brilliance in the role.

Toward the film’s end, the camera lingers on countless plastic bags, filled with tape after tape. As much as there is to contemplate and savor, one can’t help but wonder what didn’t make the final cut.

Listen to Me Marlon opens Friday

Are the kids all right?

One and Two, the impressive and imperfect feature debut of Andrew Droz Palermo, will likely bring considerable attention to the young director, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Neima Shahdadi.

Filmed in North Carolina, this specific setting in time for this ethereal fantasy/ drama isn’t made clear until it’s halfway through. By that time, we’ve been introduced to siblings Eva (Kiernan Shipka) and Zac (Timothee Chalamet), who live on a simple, rustic farm and possess supernatural powers, the extent of which even they’re not certain.

Grant Bowler and Elizabeth Reaser play their parents, insistent on isolation less for fear of the children’s powers than fear of how the outside world would react to them. But as the mother ails, the father’s paranoia becomes more pronounced.

This is a coming-of-age tale, of sorts, dabbed with Southern Gothic and boasting both a deliberate pacing and a deliberate narrative vagueness. Much is left unexplained, which may frustrate some viewers accustomed to mainstream scare fare, but there’s no question as to the conviction that the four principal actors bring to their roles. They’re always worth watching, especially Shipka, heretofore better known as Don’s daughter Sally Draper on “Mad Men.”

At times, One and Two bears some thematic resemblance to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village (2004) but is in every way superior – including being much shorter. Bigger and better things are in store for Palermo … but this is a good start.

One and Two opens Friday !

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