All genres have established stereotypical plots and clichés, which should either be avoided or entirely embraced. Unfortunately, some films hold an awkward position somewhere in between the two. They will utilize some clichés, but still attempt to be a fresh and innovative piece of filmmaking. This causes the motion picture to seem confused as to what it wants to be. There are countless pictures that fit into this category. Paul Walker's new thriller Vehicle 19 is guilty of doing this. It features a lot of bland clichés, but never truly embraces them. Instead, it fights fairly hard to seem unique. Despite its flaws, this isn't the worst way to spend a slow afternoon. There are some fun moments to be had here, but it's still sub-par.
After dealing with issues with each step of his trip, Michael Woods (Paul Walker) lands in South Africa in order to save his relationship with his wife. This recently paroled man heads to pick up his rental car, but unwittingly receives the wrong vehicle. Michael Woods soon discovers that the entire police force will take any action needed in order to stop or kill him. Along the way, he finds a tied-up woman (Naima McLean) in the trunk. They team forces in a race to the courthouse to fight against the city's horrible corruption. The head of this criminal activity happens to be the chief-of-police.
First impressions are everything, but Michael Woods fails to make a positive one with audiences from the very first scene. After being incredibly testy due to the issues he has faced on his journey to another country, he doesn't bother getting the correct rental car that he originally requested. Nearly every action he makes throughout this film is unbelievable. It's difficult to be convinced that any adult would make any of the decisions that Michael makes. For example, he picks up the gun that he found underneath the seat and uses a phone that he found in the glove compartment. He sticks around after getting a mysterious phone call, which will make it difficult for moviegoers to connect with this protagonist. Even though we're supposed to employ suspension of disbelief, Michael's actions become dumber as the picture continues to play out. Thrillers often ask a specific question: what would you do in this situation? It's irritating that even the simplest of these answers are never thought of by the lead. The sheer stupidity found within this character can become quite aggravating.
Writer/director Mukunda Michael Dewil manages to redeem multiple problems with the use of the woman tied-up in the trunk. Once she's able to explain the situation to Michael, the film most certainly improves. She happens to posses the best dialogue and is the the most intriguing character to be found. She's forced to constantly talk Michael out of his tragic decisions, which ultimately saves his life numerous times. Even though she doesn't receive a lot of screen time, she managed to make me feel more emotion towards her than any other character in the movie. The plot has several points where it decides to alter itself, which impacts the picture's fluidity. However, there are a couple scenes that are able to express a level of tension. The chases themselves are rather engaging. These sequences are clearly meant to appeal to the fans of Fast & Furious. Unfortunately, the entire movie is incredibly predictable. Even when Michael is supposedly in a lot of danger, it surely never feels like it. Mukunda Michael Dewil could use some help when it comes to developing a genuinely threatening story.
The best sequence to be found with Michael Woods is when he enters a machine-operated car wash in order to temporarily hide from the police on the streets. While water and soap run down the windows, he makes a phone call to his wife. He reaches her voicemail, which is when he begins to recall memories he had with her. He genuinely doesn't think that he will survive this mission. This is perhaps the most authentic scene to be found throughout the entire motion picture. Even though we never directly meet his wife, this voicemail is one of the few genuine moments that Michael has. This ultimately leads to the film's climax, which is certainly underwhelming. The car chase is entertaining, but it once again fails at creating the sense of danger. The ending is lazy, since it seems tacked on in order to create immediate closure.
Feeding off of the Fast & Furious popularity, Vehicle 19 managed to score Paul Walker to star. Even though he's great eye candy, his acting is a bit bland. This film doesn't have a lot of loud action to cover for him. Overacting is a common theme with this performance. However, the scene in the car wash is a standout scene in which he felt much more genuine. Naima McLean plays the woman found in the trunk. She delivers a solid performance, which clearly outshines Walker's delivery when they share the screen. Regardless, these aren't deep roles. Given the material, both members of this extremely small cast fit quite nicely in each character.
With an extremely low budget, writer/director Mukunda Michael Dewil does what he can with the visual department. He managed to correctly execute a good idea, which is to have the camera never leave the car. That's right, the entire film takes place within the rental car. This provides a claustrophobic atmosphere that feels as if we're stuck in the car with Michael Woods. Therefore, nearly every shot is a close-up, which increases the intensity of the car chases. This filmmaker entirely utilizes his surroundings in South Africa, as the vehicles weave throughout the streets. Each one of these sequences look pretty good, especially when considering the small budget.
Regardless of the genre, characters rarely come across as stupid as Michael Woods. His decisions are so distractingly dumb that it becomes quite irritating, which becomes impossible to ignore. However, there are a few standout moments that work rather well, but they're in the far minority. The casting decisions are suitable and the visuals deliver as they should. Vehicle 19 would be best enjoyed as a rental, as it's simply a run-of-the-mill thriller. At least it's never boring. Rent it.