Riding Shotgun with Grillo – Wheelman (2017)

Sleeper hit.  So this is about a getaway driver (Frank Grillo).  When he suspects that he has been double crossed in the middle of a job, he has some split second decisions to make and some fast driving to do if he is going to stand a chance of surviving the night.  Now this is what I am talking about.  Run time of 80 minutes?  Check.  Going straight from the festival to Netflix?  Check.  Badass action sequences that always impress?  Check and check.  Wheelman is a movie that I can recommend to pretty much every adult audience that doesn’t mind excessive language.

1If that’s not a problem for you, I really don’t know what more you could want from a movie.

Now I’m that guy who thought Drive was good, but largely overrated (there are pauses prominently featured that you could drive a truck through).  It still has its moments, but you know what movie I loved a lot more?  Locke.  That movie is hard to sell to people, though, because it is literally just Tom Hardy driving and talking on his cell phone for 85 minutes.  Wheelman takes the best of both worlds as a beautiful lovechild between the two, and is far easier to recommend to people because it does have some action and is just so much more accessible.  It is much more of a crime drama, though, and that’s what sells it.  This is all anchored by Frank Grillo, who has given good performances in the past, but this has that extra bit of pizzazz and is something special.  His character is a professional and is all business, and he handles his work as such.  What makes this movie so great is that you’re seeing somebody who is usually as cool as a cucumber react when everything around him starts to fall apart in one hellish night.  He makes such an impression with this one driving movie, that it wouldn’t surprise me if Vin Diesel recruits him to be in the next Fast & Furious movie.

2Maybe I can just write that into existence.

If you can’t already tell, I am all about this movie, and I even had the suspicion that I was going to fall in love with it from the very opening shot.  It’s very intelligent considering that this could have just been a straightforward crime movie, and you are able to connect with this story because all of the choices our protagonist makes are sensible.  It’s barely 80 minutes long, and it keeps up the intensity the entire time.  The only one complaint I have about this is that the cops are always a bit too far in the background with the exception of one close call; they are definitely there because you hear the sirens, but with how this escalates at the end, it would be far more believable for them to have a better response time.  Still, this is just a small nitpick, and I think that this is ultimately going to be my sleeper pick of the year.

Wheelman (2017) ****

– Critic for Hire

Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2017?  See for yourself here.


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