Shortly before thrilling us all again in Fast & Furious 6, Paul Walker stars in Vehicle 19, written and directed by Mukunda Michael Dewil. Vehicle 19 serves as a fast-paced action-thriller with more narrative depth than you might expect, whilst also showcasing a stellar performance from Walker and a stirring look at police corruption in South Africa.
Walker stars as Michael Woods, an ex-con looking to turn his life around, however, when he is set to meet his estranged girlfriend in South Africa, the American finds himself in the wrong rental car – one containing a silenced gun and a gagged hostage. Woods is soon lead on a dangerous path through police corruption and sex trafficking, eventually resulting in a fight for his life.
Whilst the action scenes in Vehicle 19 may not break any new cinematic boundaries, Dewil presents them in a slick and polished manner that is guaranteed to maintain your attention and raise some excitement. The opening sequence – a tense, high-speed pursuit through the streets of South Africa sets the bar high and gives us a taster of the spectacle that awaits us throughout the feature. Whilst this may lack the budget of the likes of Fast & Furious features, there is enough creativity and excitement to make this just as entertaining. Set pieces like warehouse shoot-outs and the undeniably tense conclusion ensure that Dewil’s feature will be a memorable watch.
Dewil’s narrative begins by giving us a taster of the high speed pursuit in the film’s conclusion, before retracing how Woods gets to this point. This immediately crafts a stirring sense of intrigue and mystery with indicators as to how Woods gets into this predicament gradually unfolding throughout a well-crafted narrative that lies somewhere between Taken and Fast & Furious. This narrative, alongside the distinct visuals of urban South Africa are mostly what sets Vehicle 19 apart from other genre pictures – also channelled through the director’s distinct urban musical choices. Dewil’s screenplay has a gritty aura of suspicion and corruption coursing through it, with Woods literally in the wrong place at the wrong time, unaware of who he can trust. Using law-enforcement officers as the main antagonists is perfect for crafting the endearing concept of one man fighting for justice against a canvas of greed and corruption.
Walker’s performance is ultimately one of his finest yet, with the actor capturing the frenzied sense of anxiety that drives Woods. This results in a genuine sense of empathy building between the ex-con and the audience, as it is clear he simply wants to turn his life around for the better. Walker remains utterly convincing throughout the vehicular action set-pieces – firmly establishing himself as one of the 21st Century’s most underrated action stars.
Vehicle 19 is slick, high-octane ride that showcases a variety of high-octane stunt work and an impressive central performance. Whilst unlikely to redefine the genre, its distinct setting and well-crafted narrative add some further excitement that is likely to delight many an action fan.
Vehicle 19 review was first posted at Andrew’s great little site Silverscreen slags