“Vehicle 19”: Paul Walker’s Suspense Thriller Super Bad Day in Johannesburg

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Vehicle 19 available on Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack and DVD on Tuesday, July 23, 2013

By Miguel Najera

Have you seen Vehicle 19? It’s been out for a few weeks and I finally got around to seeing it. I must admit as a moviegoer and filmmaker, I liked it despite some of the reviews that have panned the film as another throwaway car chase flick. Not the case! I am here to tell you why you should see this movie. For one, it is entertaining and the storyline while not completely believable, is plausible and the crimes profiled are currently permeating in our global society, and any time the spotlight can be put on human trafficking, then it’s OK in my book.

If you are helmer Mukunda Michael Dewil who is making a movie about a wicked car chase, then your go-to leading man has to be Paul Walker. And, while you’re at it, it doesn’t hurt when the actor also attaches himself as Executive Producer.

Vehicle 19 is about Michael Woods (Walker), a Texas ex-con who is out on parole after a stint for a hit-and-run incident and he is on a quest to win back his ex-wife Angie who is now working for the U.S. Embassy in Johannesburg. This is a story about a man on the road to redemption when he encounters every sort of unimaginable obstacle along the way.

Suffice to say, Michael is not supposed to be where’s he’s at, violating parole in his pursuit to win Angie back. He’s off to a very bad start after his plane is late and Hertz gives him a minivan instead of a sedan. Not only is Michael in the wrong place/wrong time, he (unintentionally) becomes entangled in a deadly cat and mouse game with one of the city’s most dangerous man – Johannesburg Chief of Police… king of a successful sex trafficking ring… all the while Angie is on the phone from work making matters worse with her line of suspicious questions… apparently she doesn’t trust that her ex-hubby has cleaned up his act.

Things heat up when a cell phone hidden in the minivan’s glove compartment rings… add to that a bound-and-gagged woman in the minivan’s storage compartment. The woman is prosecutor Rachel Shabangu (Naima McLean) who was to be killed if the commissioned hit man had picked up the van the way it had been planned out. The bad guys never saw Michael entering the equation of their intent to assassinate a woman lawyer who has discovered their criminal acts.

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From a filmmaker’s point of view, Vehicle 19 is a suspense thriller that keeps your attention and is very raw and refreshing. Watching it, I had no idea what was going to happen which is good since I can usually figure out what will happen next. A story-driven spectacle in the ‘this could happen’ mode and I found myself not having empathy for the lead character and I couldn’t figure out why.

The camera work was steady with mostly up-close personal close-ups and very few master shots. Instead the director spent most of his money to film the end shot with all the people and the car crashes, very economical.

Dewil did a very good job of keeping the story moving using a reality TV type vision to give it a ‘you are here with the guy’ feel. It worked. It felt like a ‘what would you do in that situation’ challenge to the viewer.

As for Walker’s role he does a good job of dividing his emotions between the frustration of a flight delay and the horror of becoming a foreign country’s public enemy number one. Walker’s Michael is supposed to be a lifelong screw-up but in the end, he somehow manages to do something right… enough to convince his ex-wife Angie that he’s a changed man. He’s got the bullet holes to prove it all the while emerging as a national hero.

Vehicle 19 will be available on Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack and DVD on Tuesday, July 23, 2013. A good one to add to your collection.

Vehicle 19 (R, 84 minutes) currently in theaters and on VOD
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

— Elia Esparza Contributed to this review

eesparza

Elia Esparza is a leading expert in communications and journalism targeting the burgeoning Hispanic market and has produced and written dozens of articles. President and CEO of Always Evolving PR and a Communications Specialist, Elia, incorporates her 18 years experience in the areas of entertainment and education public relations, and marketing. promotions, market research and translations (Eng/Span).