Jeremy Rush’s Netflix original film, Wheelman, features a very angry Frank Grillo-and for good reason. Grillo’s expert driver is pulled away from a job right before he is betrayed and whisked around town by a mysterious voice on a cell phone. He is shoot at repeatedly while getting his daughter out of harms way and trying to figure out who kicked him down the rabbit hole of “holy fuck” bad nights.
Rush isn’t here to make a standard action film that gives you temporary arousal; Wheelman aims to be something else. In the 100 second trailer that dropped Monday, he dials up the tension by introducing old fashioned yet potent SOUNDS into the viewer’s eardrum. The burnt rubber of a tire on wet pavement. The sudden shocking sounds of broken glass from gunshots raining down on Grillo’s Porsche.
It’s like John Frankenheimer’s car chase scenes had sex with Michael Mann’s action bravado, and Wheelman is the fucking baby.
Excuse me, but I like angry Grillo. Frankly, I like all types of Grillo, but this is my favorite blend. The authentic man of action is at his best when he plays anti-heroes with nothing to lose and plenty of reason to be pissed off. When we first meet his driver with no name, Shea Whigham’s criminal is getting into the car and treating the car like a Starbucks, becoming all chatty with the man behind the wheel. Grillo wants none of that bullshit. He’s a professional and his world runs on time.
But what if someone messes with your tightly wound world and flips it on its head, leaving you to pick up the pieces? That’s what happens to Grillo’s driver. With his family’s safety in jeopardy and bad guys coming after him, he has figure out what’s going on before he ends up dead.
That’s the simple playground that Wheelman exists on, with dialogue as blunt as a bullet through the windshield.
“I have a daughter, that scares me! What the fuck scares you?”
Grillo shouts that towards the end of the tease at an unknown assailant, giving his character a spine as the odds against him stack up. This isn’t some ordinary criminal. This is man who shouldn’t be pushed.
97% of the trailer content comes with Grillo’s driver in a car, which only cranks up the claustrophobic nature of the scenes and presents a unique take on the genre.
Grillo is the perfect guy for this role, and Rush knows it, painting nearly every frame of the trailer around the rugged leading man. The director doesn’t have to turn the actor into a badass; Grillo graduated from that school years ago. A cool vibe of authenticity is elicited from the teaser, setting up something special next week.
Did I mention that the film’s running time is a crisp 82 minutes? That means you can watch it twice and still finish in less time than Michael Bay’s Transformers films.
And you don’t even have to leave your couch. Part of Netflix’s appeal is gathering gifted actors and creators, and turning them loose on a playground without rules or regulations. Producer Joe Carnahan and Grillo found a filmmaker with a true eye in Rush, who is making his cinematic debut here.
Wheelman doesn’t just aim to please or exist as another cool looking adventure film; it wants to take something you may find familiar, and paint a fresh coat of badass all over it.
See for yourself.
Warning: The new trailer for Wheelman may give you a boner that lasts longer than four hours.