Vehicle 19 (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/05/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 85 mins

Enjoyable, inventively directed and suitably fast-paced thriller with a decent script, engaging action sequences and a solid performance from Paul Walker.

What's it all about?
Directed by Mukunda Michael Dewil, Vehicle 19 stars Paul Walker as Michael Woods, an ex-con who breaks the conditions of his parole by travelling to Johannesburg in a last-ditch attempt to save his relationship with his wife Angelica (Leyla Haidarian). After picking up the wrong car at the airport (hence the title), Michael gets stuck in a traffic jam and quickly discovers both a strange phone and a gun in the glove compartment. However, his troubles are only just beginning and he's soon pulled into a web of police corruption after discovering a woman (Naima McLean as Rachel Shabangu) tied up and hidden behind the back seat of the car.

The Good
There's an oft-quoted screenwriter's maxim that says a film should ideally hook you within the first 20 minutes (or the first 20 pages) and Vehicle 19 deserves points for adhering brilliantly to that rule and getting all of the above established within that limit. From there, the film quickly becomes a fast-paced, adrenaline-fuelled succession of car chases and shoot-outs, the gimmick being that almost every scene is shot from either the titular vehicle's interior or from the outside looking in.

Walker's not exactly known for his emotional range, but he delivers a solid and engaging performance here, albeit one that cleverly panders to his Fast and Furious fanbase (Paul Walker fans, it seems, just aren't happy unless he's driving something). There's also strong support from Naima McLean and Gys de Villiers is effectively chilling as Detective Smith, even though he's just a voice on the phone for the majority of the film.

The Bad
To be fair, the script does have the occasional wobble (such as Michael not immediately asking Rachel what's going on) and the decision to restrict all the action to the car's interior backfires occasionally, making some of the action sequences confusing (a car flips into the air and explodes for seemingly no reason) and missing out on the possibility of exploring the wider idea of police corruption (we never even meet the man who's supposedly behind the whole thing).

That said, the film is inventively shot throughout by cinematographer Miles Goodall and Dewil manages to give a good driver's-eye-view of Johannesburg, aided by a flavourful parade of cameos by the various urchins, bystanders and carjackers Michael encounters from the driver's seat.

Worth seeing?
Vehicle 19 is a pacey and enjoyable thriller that makes a virtue of its stripped-down plot and succeeds thanks to inventive, energetic direction and a pair of engaging performances from Paul Walker and Naima McLean. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 19/10/2017 13:38

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