Critic Consensus: Wheelman takes B-movie action lovers on an uncommonly smooth ride, with taut plotting and exciting action topped off with solid work from Frank Grillo in the title role.
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Critic Reviews for Wheelman
Make sure you hit "Pause" if you have to walk away from the Netflix stream for a moment, because you don't want to miss a trick here.
Jeremy Rush's fast-paced neo-noir thriller is a perfect-fit star vehicle for Frank Grillo.
It's a grade-A B-movie that gets maximum mileage from a carefully calibrated mix of hardboiled neo-noir melodrama and high-velocity minimalism.
Much "who's doublecrossing who?" ensues, and if the dialogue flags occasionally, there's always background action to contend with.
Audience Reviews for Wheelman
Here we are, with another action movie starring my good, personal friend Frank Grillo. How have you been doing this past week, Frankie??? Frank. Why aren't you answering me? Frank??? FRANK???? FRAAAAAAANK?!?!?!?! There's a Metal Gear Solid reference for those of you who game out there. Why start with that, honestly, I don't really know. May just be because I don't have much to say about this movie and I'm trying to stall out the review to make it longer than just a few hundred words. Let's talk about Frank Grillo some more. I've certainly watched a fair share of his movies, according to his Letterboxd page (though I haven't posted my review of some of those movies on that site). Like I said in my review of Beyond Skyline, he's a very reliable and believable action star. Also as I mentioned in that review, he can definitely head up a B-tier action movie. And, again, I don't mean that derisively, but not everyone can be The Rock or Chris Pratt. Very few people in the history of filmmaking have ever reached that high of a level. And there's nothing wrong with that because, quite frankly, I feel that a guy like Grillo thrives in the smaller films, because there's more creativity with what can be done and the types of stories that can be told. Then again, in my opinion, and I could be completely wrong about this, there's not as much innovation with action films as you might see in horror movies, as an example. And what I mean by that is finding new and creative ways to tell your story. From found footage, to even webcam footage, I feel that horror has always found new avenues with which to tell their stories. The horror might not change that much, but the style of telling their stories have and that's led to some pretty cool innovative moments for horror. You don't really have that many options when it comes to action movies, however, because the action and whatever set pieces you may have are first and foremost and the narrative serves to get you to those set-piece moments. Hardcore Henry comes to mind as an example of a recent action movie that, while far from perfect, at least tried to change things up a bit and tell their story from a first person perspective, like an FPS. Or Baby Driver literally syncing its action to the soundtrack that Edgar Wright picked out. And I don't really mean that as a knock on the genre, because I love action movies, it's just that, again, there aren't as many options to tell a different type of narrative because, and this bears repeating, the action needs to be a large part of that narrative. This is where The Wheelman comes in. I'm not saying that this is the most unique action flick in years, but I liked the approach of a big chunk of the movie taking place inside the car that Grillo's character finds himself driving almost all night. The action has to take place around that and there's some moments in the film where the Wheelman, whose real name is never said, gets out of the car to go into a bar, as an example, and the camera never follows him into said bar. The camera always stays inside the car and waits for WM to come back. There's obviously scenes that are shot from the outside of the car and even a few scenes with WM *GASP* actually walking out of the car and the camera follows him. But, by and large, the action takes place in a relatively static place and that's a pretty cool approach to this kind of flick. I'm certain it's been done before, but that doesn't mean that it still isn't welcome when you do see it. Having said all of that, given the nature of the narrative, which is that Wheelman is double crossed, after a bank robbery, into starting a mob war between two families (one of which he's in debt to for having taken care of his wife and daughter while he was in prison), you'd think that the movie would be a little more high-octane and frenetic. The movie, also, is very short (almost 78 minutes), so you'd think the pacing would also be off the charts. You'd be wrong on both accounts. I'll talk about the pacing first, because I don't mean to say that this movie feels twice as long as it is. What I mean is that it's very steady, it doesn't lean one way or the other. Usually, films this short don't feel this short and this one didn't. It's the longest 78 minute movie that I've ever seen and I doubt that that makes sense, but it does to me. As far as the action is concerned, it's never as thrilling as it probably fancies itself to be. The setting being so intriguing, I thought, would have definitely helped with that, but it really didn't. And I'm not saying that the action that's there is bad, far from it, it's actually pretty good. But given the claustrophobic setting the film takes place in, you'd have expected for more. And, naturally, I'm not expecting something on the scale of either of the Raid movies or any of the Mad Max films. This wasn't meant to compete with that and it's, obviously, not trying to invite the comparisons (that are gonna be unfavorable for this movie). But, again, I was just hoping the action would be a little more enthralling than it was. As far as the narrative is concerned, it's pretty basic, but it definitely gets the job done. The fact that WM's wife and daughter are such a prominent part of the movie, at least in that they have many calls throughout the film, it's easy to figure out that somehow, someway, either one or both of them are gonna be taken by the villains to use them as leverage in order to get WM to do what they want. Again, very basic, but it's perfectly solid all things considered. Not gonna win any awards for storytelling, but it gets you to where you need to go. The acting is good. Like I've mentioned before, Frank Grillo is a good actor and he doesn't disappoint here. He pretty much has to carry the movie on his shoulders, given that he's on screen the most and a lot of the other actors here are just voices from WM's phone. The movie's third act, in my opinion, is what pushes this over into the good territory. I don't know, until this point, I felt like something was just missing. Again, I like the concept and parts of the execution, but it just wasn't hitting on all cylinders for me. I mean, even with the third act it still didn't hit on all cylinders, but I felt that the third act was where every element in the movie came across the most cohesively. So, yea, that's about it really. I have my issues with this, but I still think that this is a pretty good movie, but one that probably should have been more exciting given the concept and the static nature of setting everything in the car. Can't say that you should go out of your way to give this a watch, but I feel that it'll entertain most people.
It's been a good year for getaway driver movies. Now the only question I have is: Does anyone else think that this is the better one?
Wheelman is Baby Driver meets Locke. As far as films that take place in one location throughout the entire duration go, this is one of the best I've seen in a while. I can see why films like this may bore some people into losing interest early on, but this particular film does a great job of keeping you engaged, using various filmmaking techniques. Netflix hasn't put out the greatest content in terms of original films, but I feel like they've been righting that wrong lately. Wheelman is a very enjoyable thriller that is short, to the point, and will come highly recommended by myself, and here's why. Knowing that this film takes place in our lead character's car throughout the entire duration can be a daunting thought, but know this as well; It's only 82 minutes long and it flies by. In an unnamed role, Frank Grillo plays a driver who has been set-up duration a heist. Leaving his passengers in the dust, he must keep his family safe, come up with a solution, and try to get out free, all while remaining in his car and using phone calls to whomever each issue may concern. This aspect alone is what made this film such an intense ride, at least for me. When a film chooses to set itself in one location, that could honestly make or break your film if the script doesn't have enough going on, but this movie is able to hold your attention, due to its quick pace and need to continuously inject plot twists into the mix of everything. With the addition of a terrific and devoted performance by Frank Grillo, this film soars above movies like Devil or even Phone Booth. For the premise at hand, always needing to keep moving, there really isn't a single down moment for you to catch your breath, but that's okay because the runtime is so short. As aforementioned, the driver constantly needs to be on the run throughout this entire film, and I feel as though director Jeremy Rush has done a wonderful job in keeping you on the edge of your seat and displaying cool action sequences every ten to twenty minutes. This is a rare movie that manages to give you an emotional backstory with his family while juggling chase sequences during that same scene and managing to actually make you feel engaged and moved at the same time. That's a very hard thing to do, so I have nothing but praise in terms of its pacing. If you're looking for a great film about a getaway driver, I'd recommend this year's Baby Driver, and if you're looking for an emotional roller coaster that takes place in one car, I'd recommend Locke, and even though I would recommend those over Wheelman any day, I'd have to say that it's also a nice mix of the two and has a far shorter run time, making for a very solid, breezy viewing experience. ?In the end, this is a very well-done film that delivers in terms of action and satisfaction, and even though it continuously borrows elements from other films, it's still a blast throughout the majority of it. Although familiar, Wheelman comes recommended in my books.
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