So, let me get this straight.

The same month Paul Walker is about to hit the big screen, burning rubber in another car-based caper in the seemingly never-ending Fast and Furious saga, up pops this DVD release – starring Walker burning rubber in a car-based caper.

Who would have believed it?

Actually, to be fair, while everybody involved in Vehicle 19 is clearly trying to cash in on the behemoth that is the Fast and Furious franchise, this flick turns out to be something a bit different – and is all the better for it.

It certainly isn’t the high-octane actioner the trailer suggests (nor the explosion-laden DVD sleeve for that matter).ProductImage-7596751

But what Vehicle 19 is an at-times tense thriller, with Walker at least straying from his signature role of renegade cop/ex-cop Bryan O’Conner.

This time round Walker stars as Michael Woods, a recently-released ex-con who is desperate to both turn his life around and re-connect with his on-off girlfriend.

Trouble is though, she works at the US Embassy in South Africa, so Woods decides to break his parole agreement and hop on a plane to Johannesburg in an attempt to patch things up.

So far so normal, but things take a turn for the crazy when the American wades into a mix-up with a rental car company at the airport, and before long Woods realises the car he actually has contains not only a mobile phone, but a gun and a woman tied up in the boot.

That woman turns out to be a missing prosecutor, and suddenly Walker’s character finds himself up to his neck in a tale of police corruption, sex trafficking and all-round nastiness – a tale that forces him to question his morals and his direction in life.

The film virtually from start to finish is shot inside Woods’ car, which lends a claustrophobic feel to proceedings that does work in the film’s favour.

And by shifting the action to Johannesburg it does offer something different, with helmer Mukunda Michael Dewil’s direction more than happy to poke at the underbelly of the huge city.

While there are a couple of neat car chases, this is far from the vehicular carnage the trailer might suggest, and anybody buying this expecting another slice of fast and furious action will probably be disappointed.

The film clearly wants to mimic the likes of Drive and at times it really does work, with Walker’s increasingly desperate fish-out-of-water act fitting the role neatly.

Sure, this is hardly a stretch for a man that has made his recent career out of sitting behind the wheel, but he does a solid job.

The whole thing is also improved by surrounding Walker with a decent supporting cast, including Naima McLean and Gys De Villiers.

At just over 80 minutes, Vehicle 19 doesn’t waste much time in getting going, but still finds itself stuck in third gear for chunks of the running time.

It is certainly better (and different) to what I expected it to be – just don’t expect too much.

EXTRAS: Making Of featurette, trailer

 

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.