Review: ‘Wheelman’ a white knuckle thrill of a movie

Review: ‘Wheelman’ a white knuckle thrill of a movie
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Wheelman on Netflix

Roaring onto Netflix, skipping theaters and arriving directly into viewers’s homes is “Wheelman,” a claustrophobic and highly effective thriller involving a guy driving around for 80 minutes. On the surface, that doesn’t sound too riveting, but “Wheelman” manages to rev up the tension to an insane degree, making this one car trip viewers won’t soon forget.

Much like other bottle movies, such as “Locke” and “Buried,” the majority of the action in “Wheelman” takes place in a confined place with the main character talking to unseen characters on the phone.

Frank Grillo stars as a getaway driver in the film, only ever referred to as the Wheelman. He’s paying off a debt with one last job, but when a character in a movie is doing just one last job, we always know it won’t go smoothly at all. And things go about as unsmooth as they can.

After the Wheelman picks up a couple of guys for a robbery and drops them off, he gets a phone call. The caller says he’s the man who hired them, and Wheelman needs to drive away with the money, leaving the other two guys behind. Wheelman is told they’ll kill him if they get back in the car. What should he do? Is the man on the phone telling the truth? Or is he just pretending to be the boss? This is only the beginning of an endless series of nail-biting moments in which neither the Wheelman nor the audience knows who to believe or what to do.

Every time the phone rings or the Wheelman tries calling someone, expect your heart to palpitate. It’s a testament to the film’s effectiveness that phone calls, usually the dullest part of any movie, carry so much tense weight in “Wheelman,”

The deluge of Netflix Originals that arrive weekly will likely mean “Wheelman” gets buried, but it certainly shouldn’t.

From start to finish, the movie is a lean, suspense-driving machine, made all the more impressive by the camera staying almost entirely pointed inside the car rather than outside. And it’ll make you think twice before answering a phone call from an unknown number while driving.

Loper rating: 4 tire squeals out of 5

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