Review: ‘Wheelman’ gets reckless

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, November 1st, 2017 at 6:05 PM
Review: ‘Wheelman’ gets reckless by Roman Sabella

“Wheelman,” released on Oct. 20 as a Netflix exclusive movie, is exactly what you’d expect it to be. But, despite that predictability, what it does well, it does very well. 

If you’re a fan of movies like “Drive,” “Baby Driver,” or older films like “Bullit,” then you know what to expect going into this 82-minute romp.  

It’s a story of an unnamed wheelman who doesn’t like to talk about anything but the job, until a cataclysmic event occurs that forces him to change the rules he plays by. It utilizes these tropes well, because it understands them and even the director, a fan of the aforementioned films, is not afraid to say he was heavily influenced by such fare.  

Frank Grillo, known for his roles in “The Grey” and the most recent “Purge” films, plays what can only be described as a gruffer version of Driver from “Drive” and Baby from “Baby Driver.” He’s a family man, but his demeanor and the fact that he speaks way more than I frankly expected, makes him seem far rougher around the edges than most characters in this genre blend of arthouse visuals and gritty neo-noir sensibilities. 

I don’t want to go too far into the plot considering it is fairly sparse, a mainstay aspect of the genre. What it essentially comes down to is that, during a heist, Grillo receives an out-of-area call begging him to run with the money or get killed by the other two members of the heist. 

After this, he’s sent into a series of close call, high-octane street races through the surprisingly barren streets of what appears to be somewhere in the Boston area. 

“Wheelman” really isn’t that special as far as the plot and dialogue, but what really gets you interested is its adherence to an overall claustrophobic feel. You feel like you’re in the car as a passenger, because often times, even when the action is outside the car, you witness it from within.  

Accompanied by the muffled sounds of fists being thrown, the sound of the car bellowing with its mechanical battle cry, and screeching of rubber struggling to connect to asphalt around 180-degree turns, you’re in the action and that’s enough to keep most anyone intrigued.  

The sound quality is spot on and the heavy use of silence at times is hauntingly effective. Mind you, this isn’t complete silence akin to Scorsese, but merely an utter lack of music and speech, which is accented by the sound of breathing or an idle engine waiting to ignite and push the plot forward.  

The only downside to this film is that the supporting cast leaves something to be desired. They’re not very versed in believable dialogue, and the car itself plays a better character than the supporting cast, which says a lot.  

Regardless of its minor faults, for the price of admission and length of the film, it is well worth the time just to have an exciting night in with yet another “man and his car” thriller. Witness a stellar example of immersive audio with some very awesome chase scenes.

Roman Sabella can be reached at 

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