Review: Wheelman (2017)


Wheelman is the sort of honest B-movie entertainment that Netflix ought to be funding more often. The set-up is modest and familiar: an unnamed getaway driver (Frank Grillo) gets in over his head during a job and has to follow the orders of an unknown caller on his cellphone in order to save his life and the lives of his daughter (Caitlin Carmichael) and ex-wife (Wendy Moniz). Almost the entire film takes place in the car, as if director Jeremy Rush had seen Steven Knight’s Locke (2014) and thought the concept was great but could do with some action.

The film is competently shot and moves at a brisk pace, powering you through the obvious narrative twists and turns. Like in Locke, visual interest comes in the play of reflections off the windshield. As always, Grillo is a dependable lead, demonstrating the working-class grit and intensity that makes him so appealing as an actor. There’s nothing surprising about the narrative payoff of Wheelman, but that hardly matters as the conceit is all about maintaining tension, which the film does handily. Its brief runtime—82 minutes—only makes it the more appealing, as the film never overstays its welcome, playing its familiar routine just long enough to avoid growing tedious.

The appeal of Netflix is its accessibility; it caters to our laziness. Wheelman takes full advantage of this approach to entertainment. It’s the right film to stream on a lazy Friday night when you’re too tired to head to the theatre or meet friends, but it’s not late enough to head to bed. It’ll hold your interest and entertain you enough that you won’t feel that your time was wasted, but it won’t do anything to interfere with your impending sleep. It is tense and well-performed and entertaining throughout its brief runtime. It does what modest B-movie entertainment ought to do and nothing more.

6 out of 10

Wheelman (2017, USA)

Written and directed by Jeremy Rush; starring Frank Grillo, Garret Dillahunt, Caitlin Carmichael, Wendy Moniz, Shea Whigham.