Vehicle 19 (2013)

(On Cable TV, May 2014) It’s easy to dismiss Vehicle 19 as not much more than a hum-drum thriller: it uses well-worn plot elements, doesn’t show any particularly memorable moments, features a dim-witted lead character, feels slow most of the time and if Paul Walker has now been semi-ennobled in death, he remained a fairly average actor throughout his career. But such a quick dismissal misses a good chunk of what makes this film remarkable. Top of the list would be the fact that, save for its final shot, Vehicle 19 never steps outside the minivan where it is set. The camera looks in (usually at Walker) or looks out but never leaves the vehicle, creating a claustrophobic feeling that’s appropriate for the trapped lead character. Writer/director Mukunda Michael Dewil’s plot screws are occasionally ingenious in the ways they, too, stop the film from leaving the minivan. The car chase sequences may feel too restrained to provide much entertainment, but their limited perspective ranks as unique (and seldom more so than in smashing through a convenience store). Vehicle 19 never quite manages to convert its unique assets into something fully engaging, but it does get a few points for ambition, for its South-African Johannesburg setting and for never quite spelling out its entire back-story. It could have been made a bit better, but what’s in there will strike the interest of a few viewers, especially those who like clever premises.

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