Paul Walker is an idiot abroad (Vehicle 19 review)
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): don’t expect much from Paul Walker
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
And here I was all ready to praise poor cute dumb-as-a-post Paul Walker for at least trying, bless his little heart. Vehicle 19 is, like, foreign and everything… though there’s no subtitles, so it’s not scary foreign — calm down. Still: it’s practically arthouse as these things go. And he’s not just the star but an executive producer, so you know he cares, even. Why wouldn’t he? This is important and all. Something something something sex trafficking; something something something chief of police. Probably everyone involved thinks this is a powerful and insightful story about corruption in South Africa ’n’ shit. Like meaningful and stuff. Ain’t gonna play Sun City, y’all. Peace out.
Which is why I’m ROTFLing, I guess. OMG, is this supposed to be this funny? The list of Stupid Movie Shit Only Characters In Stupid Movies Do is a mile long by five minutes into the movie, and that’s even before Paul Walker picks up the gun that he finds in the rental car he wasn’t supposed to have after getting the mysterious and nefarious text on the phone accidentally left behind in the rental car he’s not supposed to be in. Even after he tells himself to “stay outta trouble.”
Because he’s an ex-con who apparently got permission from his parole officer — or did he? *dum dum DUM* — to travel from Amuricah to Johannesburg to visit his wife at the U.S. Embassy. Because diplomatic workers with felons for spouses are totes not a security risk or anything. Apparently. Whatev.
This could be the movie the phrase “I can’t even” was invented for.
And then you realize that there’s a gimmick at work here, a forced cleverness in how South African writer-director Mukunda Michael Dewil made the whole movie from the perspective of that rental car. Not even kidding. The camera never leaves the minivan that Walker’s (Takers, Flags of Our Fathers) Michael Woods wasn’t supposed to pick up at the Johannesburg airport but did anyway. It’s kinda like that flick in which Colin Farrell was stuck in the phone booth — that would be Phone Booth — only kinda sucky and clearly trying to glom onto some of Fast and Furious’s mojo. Cuz, you know, cars ’n’ stuff. Vroom. Well, minivan-vroom. You can almost feel how pumped Dewil was, bless his little heart, to have gotten that chiseled white guy from those Fast and Furious flicks with those amazing Paul Newman movie-star blue eyes to agree to star in this. Before he realized that Walker was not very compelling as a screen presence without a V8 engine alongside and now he was stuck with the dude in a minivan and had him tooling around Johannesburg for 85 screen minutes.
There’s a ton of dumb shit here, like how there’s literally nothing to keep Walker’s character from walking away from all of this till halfway through the movie. But my most favorite awful bit might be the Big Tragic Scene that is accidentally hilarious in how it takes a story that couldn’t possibly be less about a doofusy white American guy and makes it all about a doofusy white American guy. Like none of the sex-trafficking, corrupt-chief-of-police in South Africa stuff matters at all unless a doofusy white American guy is in the middle of it.
I can’t even.