It stars Paul Walker, and heavily features cars, so the promotional material for Vehicle 19 would appear to be openly inviting comparisons to the Fast and Furious series that’s the only thing keeping Walker’s career alive, but aside from those two factors, they don’t have that much in common. That’s not to say that Vehicle 19 is some super-smart, complex drama (not at all) but that it’s hard to really call it an action movie. The whole thing could be called a ‘car chase’ in the loosest sense but Walker spends very little time speeding through stunt-filled sequences and a lot more driving slowly around.
He plays an American ex-convict who, upon release has travelled to Johannesburg to try and win back his ex-wife, who is working in the US embassy there. He goes to pick up his rental car at the airport, only it’s a large minivan, not the one he had ordered, but being in a hurry, he decides to take it anyway. As anyone watching can tell, this is a big mistake, and soon he finds that a cell phone, a gun, and a bound ‘passenger’ are in the vehicle with him. Wouldn’t you know it, he soon finds himself at the centre of some kind of criminal operation he doesn’t understand.
The big hook of Vehicle 19 is that the whole film takes place inside the car, it’s not entirely true, Walker exits the car on occasion, but the camera does not (at least I didn’t notice any occasion in which it did). It is able to see through the windows so we know what’s happening outside when it matters though. The downside to this kinda-ambitious, kinda-gimmicky technique is that a lot of the film consists of extreme close-ups of Walker’s face, and as his situation becomes more serious, his acting leaves something to be desired. It also means the film has to find reasons to keep him in the car, making some of his decisions a little hard to buy into.
The film plays out mostly in real time (possibly entirely, I’m not quite sure) and does have some potential, but what little action scenes are there are not particularly exciting or inventive. What the film really should have done is taken its set-up and just gone all out with it, cramming in ludicrous, stunt and explosion-filled car-chases to pack out its minimal plot. As it is, the lead and story are insufficient to hold your interest and the car work unfortunately can’t overcome this.