Mukunda Michael Dewil’s Vehicle 19 is an action-thriller based in South Africa that takes place entirely within the confines of a vehicle. It is the third project of that ilk – using the one-location setup – from producer Peter Safran, who also backed the 2010 Sundance breakout Buried (read our review) and the largely-ignored ATM.
The story involves Paul Walker as a recently-paroled American inadvertently given the wrong rental car, housing a mysterious woman named Rachel (Naima McLean) with key evidence for a trial concerning police corruption. That means Walker not only have to navigate a place he’s unfamiliar with, but do so while avoiding a fleet of crooked cops (and their cars) in order to deliver Rachel to the prosecution.
You get all that from the above trailer, but there’s little to no indication of the film’s conceit (ie. a tale of redemption fashioned as a high-octane thrill ride) beyond the intimate cinematography of Walker driving. However, the Japanese preview below features lots of first-person POV and vehicle interior shots that offer a better feel of the claustrophobic setting and car-crunching action.
It begs comparison to the sort of visual experimentation (some call it gimmickry) found recently in David Ayer’s End of Watch, which likewise plays around with the first-person drive perspective – among other instances – in order to enliven what might otherwise be familiar genre material.
Socio-political allegories disguised as one-location thrillers tend to live or die based on not just execution, but also the headlining actor’s capabilities as an emotional anchor. Vehicle 19 has an advantage in the former area, as it’s based in a set that actually moves; as opposed to, sedentary backgrounds in films like Phone Booth and Buried. That lents itself to more options for images and scenarios that offer a subtle commentary on the proceedings (a practice Alfred Hitchcock pioneered).
The problem is Dewil doesn’t have a star like Colin Farrell or Ryan Reynolds – who are capable actors, when given the right role – to carry the Vehicle 19 proceedings on their shoulders. Indeed, Walker does best when he’s the foil to someone with more (actual?) screen personality, as in Fast and the Furious (and even Takers, to a lesser degree). In the trailers, his flat delivery of what are admittedly cliché lines doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in that area.
Check out the Vehicle 19 poster (via Collider) below:
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Vehicle 19 does boast a more intriguing subtext and refined filmmaking craft that last year’s direct-to-DVD entry in the single-location thriller-as-metaphor category Brake (a.k.a. Die Hard in a car trunk starring Stephen Dorff). Still, it’s hard to not suspect that Walker’s indie car-racing project is going to end up left in the dust (pun intended), when lined up alongside the sixth Fast and the Furious installment this year.
We will let you know when Vehicle 19 lands an official U.S. release date.