I don’t know about you, but I love curling up with a headset and my iPad to watch a really tense movie. I couldn’t wait to do that with Wheelman since I heard it was coming out. I happen to be a fan of Frank Grillo, who plays the title character, because he loves combat sports and brings a real blue-collar aspect to the characters he plays. I was sincerely hoping this would be one of those quick, down and dirty, gritty action/dramas, and it delivered like an oil smooth bank heist.
First off, I have to applaud the way they filmed this movie. Except for a few moments on foot, it’s shot from the perspective of the vehicle. This makes it feel like everything is happening right next to you. I felt like the tension was packed full into the car and had nowhere to go. Thank god this movie was only 82 minutes, because I don’t think I could have handled more without stress medication for me poor wee heart….or black heart….whichever.
Just like I suspected, Frank Grillo brought that everyman trait he has without even trying. Every bit of fear and panic and frustration is centered directly on him, and if it was a lesser actor, I don’t know if they could have pulled it off. He is also a great driver in his own right, so there wasn’t much need to not have the camera in his face. He sometimes brings these little emotional hints that give you an insider’s perspective on the kind of guy the wheelman is. When his family starts to make appearances, you definitely see the toll its taking. Not to say the other characters fell short. Far from it. Every character does a fantastic job with what their given, but his daughter Katie (Caitlin Carmichael) really shines. It didn’t take her long to make her acting skills known.
I love the sound in this movie, too. Being so close to what’s happening, it could either be too loud because they are trying too hard, or not loud enough, but it hits those notes just right. I never felt like it was anything but a ride along in a car.
The movie starts off innocuous enough. It sets it up for a typical bank heist complete with the stranger that wants to talk too much and gets all angry, and I was skeptical at how the rest of it would play out. It got turned on its head in no time at all, though, when the wheelman gets a call to leave the guys at the bank and take off with the money. I was hooked from that moment, and I never felt like it slowed up or lost its luster at any point. When the plot STILL kept unraveling, I was pretty surprised at how well it transitioned. Most movies would have called it a day, but this one just wanted to give the wheelman just….the shittiest night imaginable.
In a time where damn near everything is packed with CGI and are more concerned with pageantry than storytelling, Wheelman is a welcome change. I know it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but you sure as hell shouldn’t pass it up. It has action, drama, great characters, great sound, a porsche, guys getting shot in the head…what more do you need? It’s a great film to sit down and enjoy for what it is. Don’t disappoint Frank Grillo; he helped produce the movie. There’s a lot of crap that tries to make its way onto your tv, don’t let this gem get lost in the shuffle.