07th May2013

‘Vehicle 19′ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Paul Walker, Naima McLean, Gys de Villiers, Leyla Haidarian, Tshepo Maseko, Andrian Mazive, Welile Nzuza, Mangaliso Ngema | Written and Directed by Mukunda Michael Dewil

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I know what you’re thinking: “Oh great, another movie in which Paul Walker drives fast in a car!” But wait, whilst Vehicle 19 does see everyone’s second-favourite Fast & Furious franchise star get behind the wheel of a car, this film is a whole different kettle of fish for Mr. Walker… Yet another in the line of “one man, one location” movies that have followed the successful release of Buriedthe film takes it’s tale on to the roads of Johannesburg as Walker finds himself in the middle of mystery, knowing exactly as much as the audience does – that he’s definitely in the wrong rental car!

Written and directed by South African filmmaker Mukunda Michael Dewil (Retribution), Vehicle 19 sees Walker star as Michael Woods, a reckless ex-con desperate to turn his life around. With one last chance to salvage his relationship with his estranged girlfriend, he breaks his parole to visit her to try and fix what they have left. A mix up with the car rental company leaves Michael stuck with the wrong car, but his problems are only just beginning. When he finds that the car contains a silenced gun and a hostage hidden in the back, Michael quickly realises that he is way out of his depth and soon finds himself on a dangerous collision course with the corrupt and powerful Chief of Police. Unable to go the police and having already broken parole, it’s up to Michael alone to save not only the hostages life, but his own.

Shot in a gritty, often very stylised fashion, by writer/director Dewil, this film looks like it could have come straight from Luc Besson’s Europa stable; and if you’ve seen the 2006 film Running Scared you’ll know what to expect from Vehicle 19. Very similar in tone, this is yet another low-budget film to feature a fantastic star turn from Paul Walker – whom, it would seem, gives much more layered, more complex, performances in these types of intimate films than in the big-budget popcorn action flicks his name has become synonymous with.

The film is not without its problems however – especially in the pacing, which slows to a crawl around the fifty minute mark before picking up for the fast-paced conclusion – and the ending feels rushed (especially given we don’t see what happens to Michael Woods, merely hear it on the radio) even though the movie only runs a brief 80 minutes. All that aside Vehicle 19 is still a great example of this growing sub-genre and is worthy of at least a rental, whether you’re a fan of Walker or not.

Vehicle 19 is showing at the Empire Leicester Square, London from May 10th. The film is released on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD on May 20th by Studio Canal.

*** 3/5

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