Review: ‘Wheelman’, Frank Grillo Takes You For A Wild Ride

Next in the ever-growing list of Netflix originals is Wheelman. This gritty action film is written and directed by Jeremy Rush. Rush has a few films to his name, and Wheelman will certainly be one that is a big notch on his belt. Netflix has been pumping out a lot of original content including some fresh action flicks and Wheelman is no exception. Hollywood seems to put similar movies out in waves - Baby Driver is still fresh on everyone’s minds with award season coming up, and now Netflix has taken its own spin on the getaway driver tale.

Wheelman is the story of just that, a wheelman. Frank Grillo plays Wheelman, who is a no-nonsense getaway driver that just wants to get the job done, with no small talk on the side. Wheelman doesn’t have a name, he just simply goes by Wheelman whenever anyone asks. Wheelman is working for some gangsters, trying to repay a debt he owes from his time spent in prison. This debt leaves him in a precarious position, he is at the mercy of these gangsters and must keep on their good graces. On top of that, Wheelman has an ex-wife and daughter that he knows can instantly be put in harm’s way if he steps out of line. 

Wheelman chronicles one fateful evening when a bank robbery goes wrong. From the beginning of the night, Wheelman senses that something is off. He is given a car for the hit that is too flashy for his liking. On top of that, his usual contact Clay has not been answering and he has no idea where to make his drop. Wheelman is a consummate professional and decides he needs to go on with the hit. Things seem to be going smoothly until a call from a blocked number comes in, causing Wheelman’s night to spiral out of control. Now Wheelman must decide who to believe, and who to trust, knowing that the decisions he makes all night will not only affect his life, but the lives of his loved ones. 

Rush does a great job creating a world for Wheelman that exists entirely in, and surrounding, the cars central to the film. He focuses his shots as close ups, completely directing the audience’s attention exactly where he wants it to be. Rush utilizes this technique to help build the suspense within the narrative. When Wheelman is desperately awaiting a call, Rush alternates shots closing in on Wheelman’s face and the phone screen – leading the audience to take on some of Wheelman’s anxiety about the call as well. Rush employs this technique very successfully and it helps pull us into the seedy world that he has created. Grillo excels in a role that showcases his skills front and center. There are other characters that pop in and out, but Grillo is the sole character driving the film forward. Wheelman doesn’t reinvent the getaway driver flick, but it is a quick and action-packed thriller that is worth a drive.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5