Monday, August 17, 2015

"Vehicle 19" (2013)

Starring Paul Walker, Naima McLean and Gys de Villiers
Written and directed by Mukunda Michael Dewil
Rated PG-13 — Violence, language
Running Time: 85 Minutes

Michael Woods (Paul Walker) has fled parole in the United States to reconnect with his ex-wife (Leyla Haidarian), who works at the U.S. Embassy in Johannesburg, South Africa. But he's having a spectacularly bad day: After delays at the airport and customs, the rental car company stuck him with the wrong car. But not just any car: this one has a woman tied up in the back, a cellphone in the glovebox and a silenced 9mm pistol hidden under the seat. The woman, Rachel (Naima MClean), claims she's a whistleblower who has uncovered evidence that the chief of police is heavily involved in the sex trafficking industry.

Now, hunted through a strange city, Mike has to get the evidence to a friendly judge, the only one Rachel trusts. Mike wants nothing more than to get out of this situation, but since he broke his parole, he's an easy target for a frame job...

Here we are with another of the late Paul Walker's final films. Released just a few months prior to his death in 2013, "Vehicle 19" went straight to video. For most of its runtime, I didn't think there was anything particularly noteworthy about it... until I realized that there's not a single shot (aside from the very final shot) of the film that takes place outside the car. For the entirety of "Vehicle 19," we're inside the car with Paul Walker, looking out through its windows or into its various mirrors.

And while that makes "Vehicle 19" a bit of a technical novelty, it doesn't really save the film from being pretty mediocre overall. The unusual way of telling the story, in this case, doesn't overcome how standard the story really is. Most of the characters in the film are only heard via cellphone, giving flat delivery, which robs them of any real presence — whether it's an emotional connection between Mike and Angie or the looming threat from the police.

Walker is trying his best to overcome it, but he seems to be overcompensating. He flips out at the slightest provocation, yelling most of his dialogue. In one sense, it helps get across the frustration that his character is feeling, but on the other, there's little buildup to it — he simply starts shouting, a lot, when things go wrong. We're told he's already had a rough start to his day, but that doesn't help keep it from being jarring or a bit over the top.

Very little needs to be said about "Vehicle 19." Other than as a mildly interesting technical achievement, it's easy to see why this film slipped under everybody's radar. The story, characters and acting simply aren't interesting enough to keep it going. It's only 85 minutes, but it feels much longer than that, which is a shame.

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