The sound of an engine out of American muscle sits in idling hibernation, like a pit bull ready to pounce. A driver looks around before straightening his rearview mirror. He is desperate but determined. The windshield is cracked, but so are the souls present. Gunshots abound and cars crash into each other. Gunmen appear and bodies drop to the ground.
Welcome to the old school action playground, where gimmicks and computer alteration aren't allowed without a hall pass.
In the new Netflix Original film "Wheelman" — which begins streaming on Oct. 20 — Frank Grillo's driver is in a whole lot of trouble. In the entire 36-second teaser trailer, he is being shot at, returning fire or driving like a madman. A getaway driver betrayed by his crew, Grillo's avenger is out to get back what belongs to him, and that includes his family.
Writer/director Jeremy Rush isn't just bursting onto the scene with the intent of creating a ripple in the waters of Hollywood. He's taking an old school tactic out of retirement — pure no nonsense action last seen in the 1970's — and placing a new engine inside it, hoping it will roar across town.
The new engine is Grillo, the authentic man of action who is riding a hot streak that most actors would kill for. At the age of 52, Grillo is dominating the likes of cable television (Emmy-worthy work on "Kingdom") and the big screen (successful "Purge" sequels), so why not kick open the door on the middle child, Netflix. Quite honestly, if you aren't watching Grillo work these past few years, as my friend and colleague Frank Cusumano would say, you should be drug tested.
Teaming with Grillo and Rush is Joe Carnahan, who has created underrated gems like "Narc" and "The Grey" (with Grillo), forming a production company — War Party — with the actor. Their goal: make no-holds-barred action films with good scripts.
"Wheelman" is the launch of this endeavor and Rush was the right man for the job. A new kid on the block in resume only, Rush paints this teaser trailer like Rembrandt drawing his first few strokes on a canvas.
You barely see Grillo's face, but you see him dodge a bullet, fire a few of his own, evade cars and look cool doing all of it. The trailer teases to a movie that simply shoots to thrill, where car chases act as monologues and long cutting stares are the one liners. Grillo's Wheelman is a criminal and a violent man by trade, but he's been wronged and seeks out revenge.
There's something classy about a revenge film. One side is knocked down and aims to get back at the other. Simple, short, and sweet. To the point.
I love the fact that Grillo's hand and fingers are tapped when we see him answer the cell in the car and he tests the steering out before punching the pedal. The camera in the backseat of the car. The attention to detail there. I am thrilled that the music producing team of Brooke and Will Blair from Blue Ruin and Green Room are doing the score. The fact that the cars are treated like a supporting cast is fitting.
Mainly, I am ready for an unapologetic action thrill ride. The movies need those. Where CGI takes a backseat to actual wreckage and dirty pavement. So many films try to be action packed and fail. Some feel bad about inserting action into the plot. In Wheelman, through 36 seconds, I can tell the poetry in this script is the action.
Grillo, Rush, and Carnahan are kicking it old school. You should pay attention. October 20, "Wheelman" arrives.
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