Tuesday, June 11, 2013

VEHICLE 19: In Mukunda Michael Dewil's South African chase thriller, Paul Walker goes fast and furious, B-movie level

First-off, TrustMovies sees nothing wrong with a good "B" movie. We should have more of them, as in the good ol' 1940s and 50s eras, when I was growing up. "A" movies these days are so often bloated in length, while paltry in style and content, that the new Paul Walker vehicle made in South African and titled VEHICLE 19 -- though for all I know it may be an "A" movie so far as South African is concerned (we don't see that many home-grown films from there; District 9 was something of an anomaly) -- seems to me a good example of a generally tight, twisty little B film.

Written and directed by a South African fellow with the mouthful of a name -- Mukunda Michael Dewil (shown at right) -- the movie tosses you into an immediate car chase with Mr. Walker (below) at the wheel (Fast & Furious franchise fans should feel right at home with the person, if not the place). Then, after some speedy, scary moments, we come to a sudden halt, and then we're taken back to a few hours earlier, as the plot kicks into action. While there is not a hell of a lot of plot, there's enough to keep us and Walker occupied tidily for the 85-minute running time. Basically, this is one of those in-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time movies, but with a little bureaucratic twist in which an employee makes a simple mistake in her assignment of a particular object. And then all hell breaks loose.

I don't want to go much further plot-wise because the movie has a couple of neat surprises up its sleeve, one of which involves another character. I will just say that, as usual, with films in which you find dirty cops at the top of the food chain -- from L.A. Confidential to the recent Eden -- things do not look all that bright for the protagonists on view.

Mr. Walker's character, Michael, has a checkered history himself, which adds to our hero's problems, and while the actor plays mostly angry and determined (with a couple of very moving moments of concern and grief), but he handles these two states well enough. Naima McLean (above, right) plays her "whistleblower" role quite well, too, and the only other major character is essayed by Gys de Villiers, first heard as a phone voice and finally given the solidity of a body to go with it.

In an article I searched out about the making of the film, it was said that all the action takes place inside the titular vehicle. I don't quite remember the movie that way. There are plenty of scenes shot from outside the car looking in, so this is not on of those "contained thrillers" like Buried or Brake.) I also think I recall Walker's getting out of the vehicle, as well. Still, most of the movie does take place in the generally speeding car, and the fact that it gets such good mileage out of this situation is very much to the filmmaker's credit as writer and director.

Distributed by Ketchup Entertainment, Vehicle 19, a good title, the meaning of which comes eventually clear, opens this Friday via AMC theaters in ten cities across the country, including New York City (at the Empire 25), Ontario (in California, at the Ontario Mills 30), Atlanta (at the Southlake Pavilion in Morrow, GA), Chicago (at the Barrington in So. Barrington, Il.), Dallas at the Mesquite in Mesquite, TX), Houston (at the Studio, Houston), Miami (at the Sunset Place in South Miami), Philadelphia (at the Neshaminy in Bensalem, Pa.), San Francisco (at the Deer Valley Stadium in Antioch, Ca.), Washington DC (at the Hoffman in Alexandria, VA). If you don't live near these locations, I expect VOD and DVD will be coming semi-soon.

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