Vehicle 19: Film Review
Paul Walker takes a misbegotten trip to South Africa.
A wrong place/wrong time actioner stupid enough to damage the art-house credibility of actor Paul Walker, Mukunda Michael Dewil's Vehicle 19 sends a Texas ex-con into Johannesburg for the first time and expects him to evade the city's entire police force. Just as unsatisfying as a no-expectations chase film as it is on other fronts, the film isn't likely to shave much off this week's Fast & Furious box office as it makes its quick slide to video.
Walker plays Michael Woods, out on parole after a stint for a hit-and-run and desperate to win back ex-wife Angie, now working for the U.S. Embassy in Johannesburg. Violating parole to visit her, he's off on a bad foot in other respects as well: His plane is late, Hertz gives him a minivan instead of a sedan, and Angie, on the phone from work, peppers him with nervous questions like "You didn't stop at the liquor store, did you?"
Oh, and there's a bound-and-gagged woman in the minivan's storage compartment.
That woman, prosecutor Rachel Shabangu (Naima McLean), was clearly going to be killed by the man intended to pick up this van -- witness the gun and the message-delivering BlackBerry that Hertz's clean-up team missed when they were busy not opening the trunk. Rachel has evidence of the chief of police's involvement in a sex-trafficking ring, and the chief's goons -- as soon as they've stopped trying to convince Michael they're good guys who just want him to drive to an abandoned warehouse where they'll swap cars with him -- soon put his face all over the news and issue a shoot-on-sight order to police.
Walker has a very hard time finding any shades of emotion between the frustration of a flight delay and the terror of being Public Enemy #1; his character is meant to be a lifelong screw-up, but Walker can't sell the increasingly dumb decisions he makes. Like insisting on a secret rendezvous at Jo'burg's courthouse shortly after he's told every cop in town knows what he looks like and wants to kill him.
Local color is handled in an exploitative way, with bug-eyed black men wielding knives and the streets of poor neighborhoods oozing menace. Dewil's incompetent handling of car-chase sequences negates the sole reason viewers might stumble into the film.
Production Company: The Safran Company, Forefront Media Group
Cast: Paul Walker, Naima McLean, Gys de Villiers, Leyla Haidarian, Tshepo Maseko
Director-Screenwriter: Mukunda Michael Dewil
Producers: Ryan Haidarian, Peter Safran
Executive producers: Paul Walker, Eddie Mbalo, Geoffrey Qhena, Basil Ford, Trishana Thevnarain, Gary King
Director of photography: Anton De Bruyn
Production designer: Sue Steele
Music: James Matthes, Daniel Matthee
Costume designer: Lynn Driver
Editor: Megan Gill
R, 84 minutes