From producer Joe Carnahan and starring Frank Grillo comes Netflix’s latest original feature, Wheelman. The story follows Grillo as a driver for higher where the stakes of a botched bank robbery force him to make life or death decisions that boy only affect his well being, but that of his daughter and estranged wife.
Ninety percent of the film takes place with Grillo behind the wheel, either swerving to evade bad guys on his tail or speaking to unseen faces on his cell phone. Rarely is there a frame in this film that doesn’t have a piece of Grillo in it.
The film is rapid, quickly cut by editor Padraic McKinley whose editing skills reach back as far as his first editorial feature, Igby Goes Down. Writer/director Jeremy Rush assembles, shifts and revs a very action packed film with a taut narrative, and an excellent emotionally stoic performance from Grillo. It’s a daring move to tell the story by rarely removing the camera from Grillo inside of a car, and it works wonderfully.
The film is less like Ryan Gosling’s Drive and more like Tom Hardy’s Locke. It’s a character-driven story that takes place within a few hours of Grillo’s ill-fated seat behind the wheel where everything that can go wrong does.
It’s an excellent genre picture that reverts back to those blistering bad guy as the good guy pictures of the 60s and 70s that would have starred Lee Marvin or Steve McQueen. We root for Grillo, not because he’s the hero, but because he’s the cool antihero who is trying to do good by providing for his family by doing a bad thing.
Review by Frank Mengarelli