Just drive. And don’t ever get out.
A getaway driver (Frank Grillo) is hired to do a job that consists of picking up two random criminals, who aren’t the best sort to have around. But the driver doesn’t care about that because he’s just in it for the money, so that he can, hopefully, save his marriage and keep his daughter from getting taken away from him. But as expected, the job that he takes ends up not working out and now, all of a sudden, he’s on-the-run, with the police, as well as these baddies, after him and looking to get rid of him, any way that they can.
And yup. I think that’s about it.
Wheelman is a lot like Locke, in that it’s all presented in real-time, takes place mostly within the confides of a car, and deals with a lot of talking. Sure, it’s a lot dumber and more action-packed than the later, but what the former gets correct is that it knows how to keep the tension going, without ever showing us everything. Most movies, especially action-thrillers, tend to forget that, often times, simply hearing or imagining something happening off-screen is far more compelling and exciting than having to always see it, in all its finest glory.
Granted, that’s not a rule that every film has to follow, but it’s one that Wheelman follows mostly throughout and because of that, it’s a lot smarter than what we’re used to seeing.
It’s still a B-movie, through and through. But a good one, at that. It knows what it is, it doesn’t make amends for itself, and just continues to get going and moving, at a rapid-fire pace, never really settling in on one plot-development too much, and always giving us a great idea of where we’re heading. Sure, it’s about a guy driving around, trying not to get killed by a bunch of faceless, and sometimes, nameless figures, but the movie always keeps us along for the ride. There’s a small sense of dread, but there’s always a breath of fresh air and excitement to be had and that is, above all else, nice.
Writer/director Jeremy Rush deserves to be commended for his skills here because he knows what he’s making and gives it to us, without trying too hard to go deeper. Wheelman does eventually attempt to throw Frank Grillo’s family in the mix and while it may feel a tad bit obvious and unneeded, it doesn’t take down the whole movie. If anything, it’s an extra strand of plot that Rush himself probably thought that he needed, but honestly, really didn’t.
All it really needed to do was depend on Grillo, doing what he does best: Acting like a bad-ass.
And considering that the whole 80 minutes of Wheelman are spent with Grillo, it’s great that we get so much time to spend with him and realizing that he is one of the better actors out there today. As we’ve seen before in other movies, or the unfortunately just-ended Kingdom, Grillo plays these rough, gruff, tough, and rather angry guys, but he isn’t also afraid to give them a sense of vulnerability, either. He understands and knows that what makes most of these bad-asses tick and feel real, is that they actually do have a heart, soul, and tender soft-spot in their bodies. They don’t have to be crying at SPCA commercials, but they just need to have a little some form of humanity to make them not only compelling, but at the very least, sympathetic. Grillo does all of that here and we, as well as the movie itself, are much better for it.
We need him in more stuff. Please.
Consensus: Without trying too hard to be something that it isn’t, Wheelman is a fun, fast, and relatively tense B-movie.
7 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Netflix