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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Wheelman is a taut drama that stays with its central character, a getaway driver, as he attempts to escape in his car from escalating betrayal and mayhem. The film is literally "driven" by intensity, suspense, and an antihero who inspires rooting interest despite his felonious career. The unnamed "wheelman," who is on camera for all but a few brief shots, finds himself a pawn in a battle between rival crime organizations who are out for blood, drugs, and money. Violence erupts frequently. Guns blaze; blood spatters; bodies fall. Car chases lead to crashes, narrow escapes, more deaths and destruction. A 13-year-old girl is in jeopardy. And throughout, angry profanity is heard (including countless uses of "f--k"). A thrill ride for action fans, the movie isn't for kids.
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What's the story?
Cell phone calls from an unknown voice, along with threatening texts, find the nameless ex-con WHEELMAN (Frank Grillo) shaken as he waits in his getaway car for two bank robbers to complete a dangerous heist. The phone calls come quickly, and menacingly, with conflicting instructions. In a moment of panic, the Wheelman leaves the thieves at the crime site, taking the bank loot with him. He quickly realizes he's in serious jeopardy, caught between two feuding mob bosses. In addition, he's left his 13-year-old daughter, Katie (Caitlin Carmichael), alone in his apartment, and both she and his ex-wife may be in danger because of him. The phone calls keep coming; his pursuers get closer; and bodies fly as the Wheelman careens through Boston's mean streets in an epic attempt to survive and save his family.
Is it any good?
A tight script and a riveting performance by Frank Grillo as the multidimensional antihero keep this fast-paced noir thriller compelling from start to finish. A bank heist gone wrong is standard fare, but seen here from the point of view of the driver of the getaway car makes Wheelman original. Frank Grillo, usually a featured player, makes the most of this opportunity to carry a film on his own. Young Caitlin Carmichael also has a challenging role, and she's very effective. So are the many car chase sequences, shot from startling angles with screeching power. A few plot elements and some timing issues lessen the impact. (Spoiler alerts: Evening bank hours? A scheme in place to abduct the Wheelman's ex-wife?) Violence and profanity abound, but it's an exciting 82 minutes for mature fans of the genre.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the frequent, graphic violence in Wheelman. How does your family decide which films are too violent for viewing? Does it depend solely upon age? What other factors may be considered? What is the impact of violence in the media on children?
In film terms from the mid-20th century, what is a B movie? How does this movie fit into that category? How is this term aligned with the musical term "B side," which referred to the back side of 78 and 45 rpm records?
Is the main character a hero? Is he sympathetic despite his lifestyle? What scenes or incidents make him someone to root for? What makes antiheroes so compelling?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.