3 StarsThe new action-thriller Vehicle 19 opens with an extreme close-up of Paul Walker’s vibrant blue eyes as he navigates the roadways during a high-speed pursuit. Perhaps it’s an homage to Steve McQueen and his vehicular classic Bullitt. Michael (Paul Walker) is an American in South Africa, on holiday to patch things with his girlfriend when he rents a car from a seemingly reputable business. Unbeknownst to Michael is the hidden gun under his seat and dangerous cargo that is locked in the trunk space. It’s a nightmare scenario that anyone of us could conceivably be caught up in.
Paul Walker, who is no stranger to car-chase movies, after having appeared in six (and counting) Fast and Furious movies, makes for a compelling action hero. The first twenty minutes of the film is virtually a one-man show, Walker is never going to be Ryan Gosling but he is a capable and sturdy role player that anchors us early and hooks our attention. His character, Michael Woods is a recovering drunk recently paroled, trying to avoid trouble in a foreign land. The unshaven mug and denim shirt suggest blue-collar criminal but the laid back Southern California delivery makes it tough to accept the actor as a hot head badass.
Vehicle 19, much like the overlooked Running Scared, is a manic, overly stylized low-budget action flick with the look and feel of something that slipped out from under the Luc Besson production banner. I love it all the more for it. There is almost a sub-genre of these gimmicky type thrillers, Cellular, Buried and Phone Booth immediately come to mind. All are done with intelligence and varying degrees of realistic human behavior. Vehicle 19 can now proudly stand along those aforementioned titles as some one of the best this burgeoning category has to offer. It’s also one of the years best straight to DVD releases, so far.
Director: Mukunda Michael Dewil
Stars: Paul Walker, Naima McLean, Gys de Villiers