Replacing Jason Statham is Ed Skrein, who takes on the role of Frank Martin, an elusive, former mercenary, can now be found behind the wheel of a fancy automobile, driving passengers around to where they need to get, or dropping off packages on their behalf – under one condition; he doesn’t ask any questions. However he becomes heavily intrigued, and unwittingly involved, when the beguiling Anna (Loan Chabanol) – and her three accomplices – use him as their getaway driver in an ambitious, monumental bank robbery, with the purpose of getting revenge on a man (Radivoje Bukvic) who sold them into prostitution at a young age. Initially just doing his job, when learning that his own father (Ray Stevenson) is held hostage, Frank soon realises that his role is going to be far more than that of the driver.
Camille Delamarre’s endeavour is one that perpetuates the male fantasy; this notion that real men drive fast cars, have attractive women orbiting around them (in many cases, half naked ones) while also possessing a unique ability to defeat any number of antagonists when in combat. Not to mention looking pretty damn good in a suit. But it feels somewhat old-fashioned now, and even Bond, which glorifies, and pioneers this lifestyle, revels affectionately in traditionalism, surviving primarily off that sense of familiarity. We know it’s flawed, but we allow it because it’s 007 – but that theory doesn’t quite apply to Frank Martin.
Skrein does a commendable job as the protagonist however, or at least as good a job as the hackneyed screenplay will allow. He has a certain charisma that makes for a strong leading man – not to mention the fact he’s perfected the coarse, gravelly, English voice that has given Statham such a stepping stone (and remarkable ability for delivering one-liners). However the character isn’t particularly likeable, which is partly down to his inclination to attack innocent people. He’s the good guy, we get that, but he keeps beating up everyday people just going about their day. Like the chap at the hospital, just asking, politely, if Frank can provide some ID to prove he works there (he doesn’t) and because he doesn’t possess any authorisation, he just smashes the guy’s head on the table and knocks him out. There’s just no need for that, mate.
With a series of tedious, terrible one liners, caught up in a horribly generic narrative, there is a brilliantly entertaining middle act that is impossible not to enjoy. There’s a half an hour sequence involving a brilliantly devised, Jackie Chan-esque fight, followed closely by a gripping car chase involving a runaway airplane. It’s just a shame that everything either side of this glorious middle act is underwhelming, cliched nonsense.