Vehicle 19 Review – A Wild Ride With Overdrive

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“Vehicle 19”, a fast action, wild thrill ride, from Ketchup Entertainment and Director Mukunda Michael Dewil,  floors it from the start and moves zero to sixty shifting into overdrive for a spine-tingling finale.

Written by Dewil, and produced by Ryan Haldarian and Peter Saftran, “Vehicle 19” stars Paul Walker, (“Fast and Furious”), and Naima McLean, (“Wild at Heart”) as Rachel Shabangu, Gys de Villiers as Detective Smith, Leyla Haidarian as Angelica Moore, Tshepo Maseko as Lieutenant and Andrian Mazive as Benji.

“Vehicle 19” opens as Michael Woods, played by Paul Walker, wanders through the seas of sedans in the Hertz Rent-a -Car lot at the Johannesburg International Airport.  Finding Vehicle 19, he immediately calls the reservationist and explains he ordered a sedan not a mini-van, unable to remedy the situation over the phone, and clearly pre-occupied, he decides to keep the van and handle the problem on the return.

Picking up the rental, the edge living Woods is travel weary like anyone that has just flown to the other side of the world. The anticipation of reuniting with his wife after eighteen months is very present, although he’s a bit unorganized. Possibly one of the things she loves as her conversations with him via cell phone are filled with apprehension over the possibility of getting back together.

Woods, as we learn through repeated conversations with his wife, Angelica, an International Relations Employee in the U.S. Embassy, has just been released from prison. She believes he has been approved for travel; she doesn’t know he is violating his parole to be with her. 

As he drives through the streets of Johannesburg, where English isn’t the first language, although the signs are in two languages, our unorganized driver, has no idea where the embassy is, which is one of the gaps, I felt, in presenting a clear devotion to the wife that he has longed for over his incarceration. He arrived, made the effort, but had no idea where he was going once he got there – I suppose that could be an analogy of most relationships.

During his road trip, through radio voice over, which is barely audible, the local news reports a missing woman, Lead Prosecutor Rachel Shabangu. Signs, also, are posted reporting the same missing person, and unless one looks the signs pass, on screen, without notice.

Waiting in traffic, he hears a cell phone ring from the glove compartment, simply thinking the former car renter had left a phone in the car, he doesn’t answer. No big deal. No issue. As he fumbles on the floor, map in lap, driving, eyes off the road, his hand touches something under the passenger seat. 

His love journey gets somewhat detoured as the phone, rings again, and, now, he has found a loaded gun with silencer attached.  Obviously he’s getting a bad feeling about the van, and rightly so.  Trying to decide what to do, for plot sake, my idea of ditching the gun, wiping it clean, emptying the clip, tossing the phone and keeping the sim card, is not in script; situation and movie over.

Woods pulls into a deserted field, trying to think through the series of events and his vehicle hits a pothole and gets stuck. He eventually answers the caller on the cell phone left in the glove compartment, and is told by the professional, authoritative voice of Detective Smith, played by Gys de Villiers, the car was part of a covert operation and he inadvertently was given the wrong vehicle. If he followed the instructions they would simply switch it out and he could go on his way.

In his attempt to rock the car out, the back seat becomes dislodged, falls forward and a woman, bound and gagged, rolls out.

It is here, “Vehicle 19” take a sharp turn veering from somewhat interesting to very intriguing. 

It is also where we meet Rachel Shabangu, played by Naima McLean, the lead prosecutor in an international child sex trafficking case. As she described the facts, she convincingly explains she has uncovered damaging evidence implicating high levels of the local government. She went to her apartment and this is the next thing she remembers.

Unsure which of the two are telling the truth, and believing the simple solution is the best, taking all the other factors into consideration, an American in a foreign country, a felon that broke parole, he decides to follow the directions of the Detective and he makes another detour.

What follows has Woods hunted, wanted, outmanned and out gunned and left only on his wits.

After putting myself in the driver’s seat, even limitedly, arriving in a foreign country where the driving laws are different, and yes, I have driven on the left, and my experience was pretty much the same as the film, once you survive the initial near miss you adapt quickly.

Of course, the similarities end there, as this person captures the essence of an irresponsible driver. He treks off in a foreign country, without his Google map directions taped to the dash, repeatedly using the cell phone, fumbling for food and drink. He’s unorganized, especially as he continues to profess his devotion to his wife.

The absence of the mad rush, blind passion, determination to get to her seems unnatural and it also seems odd and unlikely that an intimate reunion isn’t on his mind and yet he hasn’t made provisions in his plan for the final leg of his journey. Almost as if he is once again testing the boundaries.

“Vehicle 19” puts the audience in the passenger seat, as it was shot almost entirely in the mini-van, the frames are tight, as each one of us become the side seat driver and interject our own road etiquette, rules or rage taking the tight curves, hairpin turns, and asking the same question, “What now?”

“Vehicle 19” has great chase scenes, a real thrill ride of the unknown as he barrels blinded through city streets, a climatic ending, and really beckons the audience to jump in. With a few bumps in an otherwise well paved road film, “Vehicle 19” has overdrive; it doesn’t stall and is thrilling to the end.

Come along for the ride as “Vehicle 19” speeds into theaters June 14, 2013.

 

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