Ex-con Michael Woods (Paul Walker) is driving. He squints, puzzled, at a South African road sign bearing a collection of high-scoring Scrabble letters. A truck speeds towards him. He swerves, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision, and mutters to himself, bemused, ‘They drive on the left?’ Truly, he is an innocent abroad. Fifteen minutes later he’ll bellow, ‘Why is there a gun in my car?!’
It’s not what you’d call a performance of breathtaking subtlety, and nor does it need to be: ‘Vehicle 19’ is a tale of corruption, mistaken identities, abductions, car chases and stand-offs, with an obligatory hip hop soundtrack evoking Walker’s appearances in the lucrative ‘The Fast and the Furious’ franchise.
Second-time writer-director Mukunda Michael Dewil’s main gimmick is that the film largely takes place within a car, but you’re not in for ‘Das Boot’ levels of claustrophobia here; to be honest, it struggles to match Tony Scott’s ‘Unstoppable’, set on a runaway train, in the tension-in-a-tight-spot stakes. ‘Vehicle 19’ has more in common with a film like ‘The Transporter’, but Walker invests his performance with less humour than Jason Statham typically manages in these roles, intentionally or otherwise. Paul Walker completests: fill your boots.