Vehicle 19 is an interesting film. It’s not entirely successful, but it tries to do something a bit different from so many other action thrillers. For a start, it’s almost entirely set in the titular vehicle.
Paul Walker stars as Michael Woods, according to the accompanying publicity blurb he “is a reckless ex-con desperate to turn his life around”. Well, that’s not immediately obvious as the film plays out, but it is clear that he’s made mistakes in his past and his on his last chance with his estranged girlfriend. That’s why he has broken his parole and is driving around South Africa on his way to visit her and make things right again. Unfortunately, Michael was given the wrong car by the rental company. Never mind checking if the air freshener works and the tank is full of fuel, this particular car has a gun inside and even a female hostage (initially hidden out of sight, otherwise it’s safe to assume that our lead character would never have driven the car away). After a phone call in which he is given specific instructions, Michael drives to a destination where he hopes to wash his hands of the whole situation, but it all gets a lot worse. He then finds himself being chased by some very determined bad guys, trying to help the hostage (Naima McLean) and making sure that nobody harms his girlfriend. All without being able to go to the police.
Written and directed by Mukunda Michael Dewil, Vehicle 19 is a concept movie. The concept is a pretty slim one – watch a car chase flick that takes place almost entirely from inside the one car – and that’s reflected in the short runtime (the movie barely feels like a feature), but it also has enough sprinkled throughout to keep things interesting and relatively tense.
I’m sure that there will be a number of The Fast & The Furious fans who check this out purely on the basis of it being a film that features a) Paul Walker and b) a car, but it’s pretty far removed from the fun of that franchise. Walker is decent enough in the lead role, he’s not the best actor in the world (or in America or in whatever zipcode he happens to be dwelling in) but I find him to be a likeable onscreen presence, and Naima McLean works well alongside him. Although Gys De Villers and Leyla Haidarian have small, but important, roles the film is essentially carried along by Walker and McLean.
The script is okay and the action is fairly well shot, it’s just a shame that the film feels far too slight. The South African setting really adds a nice layer to the proceedings, but it feels underused. In fact, there are many parts of the film that have great untapped potential, including the whole conceit of staying in the car while the action unfolds. Which is why I ended up rating it as just above average.
Vehicle 19 is out on DVD and Bluray today. The disc also includes the trailer and a short “making of” featurette (12 mins approx). Not much to complement the slim feature.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: MUKUNDA MICHAEL DEWIL
STARS: PAUL WALKER, NAIMA MCLEAN, GYS DE VILLIERS, LEYLA HAIDARIAN
RUNTIME: 85 MINS APPROX