Vehicle 19

Vehicle 19, a South African-made wrong-time-wrong-place actioner, was completely slated by the critics. I can kind of see why. In it Paul Walker plays Michael, an all-round loser with a penchant for airline alcohol and bratty temper tantrums. He’s broken his parole after a hit-and-run conviction, and desperate to win back his less-than-convinced ex, he travels to SA to find her. Our Paulie’s already kind of an all-round walking disaster, so when he discovers a gagged and bound lawyer who’s been set up for assassination (by a corrupt cop, nogal) in the back of his hirecar, he’s basically screwed.

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It’s all a bit arbitrary; there’s even a macguffin, something about human trafficking that moves the narrative forward without ever being shown. The choices Paul makes as he tries to get out of the mess he finds himself in are a bit ludicrous – and he’s freakin unsympathetic to the poor woman he finds in his boot. But you know what? I’ve seen worse, Paul Walker’s ok to look at and I enjoyed seeing Johannesburg on screen. It’s not going to have anyone stampeding for tickets, but I’d probably even watch it again on dvd.

Fast Five

Fast Five is the latest in a series of shoot-em-up actioners staring Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. The films seem to be about a gang of honorable car thieves, from what I can tell. (No, I haven’t seen any of the earlier ones, but I’ve seen enough trailers to have a bit of an idea of what’s going on.)

By the time of Fast Five, the ridiculously good-looking team (well, not Ludacris, obviously, but just about EVERYBODY else is drop-dead) has assembled in Rio. Against this atmospheric backdrop, they cross paths and swords with a crime boss who wants them dead, and an elite squad of the FBI who wants them behind bars (cue man-mountain Dwayne Johnson) and all sorts of shenanigans follow. A roof top chase through (or rather over) the shanties is particularly energized; the grand finale car chase through the streets is literally gravity-defying. So it’s all a bit silly really, but a more than entertaining-enough way to spend a flight, if you ask me.

I remember a few years back, being quite astonished that Paul Walker – something of a charisma-bypassed nobody – was demanding (and getting) $10 million a movie. And let’s face it, at that time, the high point of his career was that truly awful adaptation of Michael Crichton’s Timeline. Well, ten years later he’s still here, and strangely, I think, his earlier woodenness has morphed instead into what passes for commendable acting restraint. Here, I thought, he was worth every cent.