Bottle episodes of television are always interesting. Reducing the action to a single location encourages a heftier narrative and tighter dialogue. Applying this approach to an entire film is even better, and doing it with a car is downright genius. Sure, it's been done before, but rarely this good. Wheelman follows a getaway driver who owes money to the local mob and winds up in a bad situation when his partner double-crosses them without his knowledge. We spend nearly the entire film on Wheelman's dashboard, watching the events of the film unfold from the car's perspective. It keeps things moving, and the film's runtime keeps things tight and lean.
Frank Grillo excels as the unnamed Wheelman. He's got a wife and kid, he just got out of prison, and he just wants things to go the way they were supposed to. But when he gets a phone call from who he thinks is his handler telling him to ditch the two guys he was hired to drive from a robbery, things go south really fast. Now, his actual handler thinks Wheelman has screwed him, and the new guy is threatening to kill Wheelman's family if he doesn't comply. Where do Wheelman's loyalties lie? Will he get out of this in time to save his family and smooth things over with the mob? Only time will tell.
Wheelman, like most of Netflix's original films, came and went back in 2017. It deserves way more attention. This film is a lean, mean, heist thriller and action flick. Grillo is a compelling protagonist you can't help but root for, and every time his phone rings, you tense up. That's good filmmaking.