Car-based thriller starring Paul Walker neither fast nor furious enough
Having made his name with souped-up vehicular antics in the Fast and Furious franchise, there’s a small smirk to be had when Paul Walker’s Michael Woods lands in Johannesburg and finds himself mistakenly saddled with a sedentary rental minivan. Fans of that turbo-charged series will find little else to amuse them in Vehicle 19 though, as the one-dimensional Woods attempts to reunite with his long-suffering partner Angie (Leyla Haidarian, present mainly as a histrionic voice on the phone) while malicious forces attempt to retrieve the car and its secret contraband.
Rather than being a relatable schmoe, Woods is a complete nincompoop whose actions defy any sense of logic – why he doesn’t extricate himself from the proceedings at the earliest opportunity is anyone’s guess. Walker, deprived of the bass, booty and burning rubber that usually mask his lack of charisma, overacts his way through grinding exposition and a handful of turgid chase sequences (their adrenal gland removed by director Mukunda Michael Dewil’s gimmicky decision to film all but one shot of the movie from inside the car).
That’s not to say the film is without some minor redemptions – Naima McLean delivers a strong turn as unwilling passenger Rachel, and the dusty streets of Johannesburg lend a refreshing change of aesthetic from the glass-and-steel anonymity of modern American cities – but, plagued by a lack of drive and energy, Vehicle 19 is neither fast nor furious enough to be a satisfying ride.
Limited release from Fri 10 May.