The Wheelman doesn’t talk much. In the opening moments, he examines his car for the newest job. He pushes down on the hood to feel the suspension, he notices that the car has a descriptive red trunk. He’s uneasy, he can tell not all is right. This is the opening scene of Jeremy Rush’s Netflix thriller Wheelman. The tone starts off like a Jean-Pierre Melville and quickly becomes an extended combination of Steven Knight’s Locke crossed with Gone in Sixty Seconds. The entire film operates like a tightrope with every shot taking place from inside one of two cars. By all counts, it shouldn’t work, but it is the film’s star, Frank Grillo, that keeps the film grounded while the desperation mounts. The film is strung together with a loose plot, to say the least. Grillo plays an unnamed wheelman for hire. He was recently released from prison and takes small jobs that he can control. He is going through a divorce and he is doing everything possible to share custody of his daughter. He is slated to be the wheelman for a bank robbery that goes wrong when he is threatened by someone who calls him while the robbers are inside. The rest of the movie is a cat and mouse thriller between several people who keep calling him. The Wheelman struggles with who to believe, who is double-crossing him, and who he can trust. Rush’s film is spare, never overpopulating the story or the screen with unnecessary action. The visual technique certainly keeps him from making this a Baby Driver style thriller. The story is filled with car chases, but they are all tightly focused on Grillo. He is a reactive part of the story and his face pulls the audience into the mayhem of the scene. There is a chase scene with a motorcycle that plays out with complete clarity. Action films have a tendency with car chases to overcomplicate the action so that you lose focus of the trajectory of the scene. This technique employed by Rush keeps the action centered on what’s important, the momentum of the chase. The audience is attached to the driver because he is the one that matters. The scene plays out on Grillo’s face and the audience understands the speed and ferocity of the moment. Wheelman is all about time slipping away, out of control. Rush gives the audience no time to breathe. No time to relax. Even when the Wheelman is dealing with family issues, the moments are tense and propulsive. The film’s best scene is early in the film between Shea Whigham who plays one of the bank robbers and the Wheelman. Whigham is slightly unhinged. The language is coded, every word is carefully chosen. The Wheelman may not talk much, but what he says is important, building the character and establishing this world. The movie certainly isn’t perfect, but at a tight 82 minutes, the flaws seem to evaporate. The issues don’t drag the premise and visual conceit to a length the story can’t sustain. Grillo has been turning in exceptional work for a few years now. He holds this neo-noir together with his quiet intensity. Without Grillo the film could easily have fallen apart. The Wheelman is a character that seems to have every right decision and also be two steps behind. Grillo exudes a macho charisma and a consistent vulnerability. Wheelman is the kind of B-movie that used to come on late night HBO, but we aren’t in that era anymore. Netflix has taken over that market and has done so with consistency. The frequency of their output is becoming a massive upside, particularly with what they are offering this October. This month shows the release of Mindhunter, 1922, Stranger Things, and Wheelman. If they can keep this up Netflix may become the most important studio in Hollywood and Wheelman is the type of small-scale gem that will make them stand apart. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response BMovieDotCo November 12, 2017 Nice Post ♥ Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.