Gaming-Driven Review: Wheelman

This is a review of the 2017 Netflix movie, “Wheelman”. It was produced by and stars Frank Grillo, probably better known as Brock Rumlow/Crossbones from the MCU. I started watching it for ideas about a Pilot character in a S&V game.

Wheelman is reminiscent of other efforts like “The Transporter” and “Drive” in that its protagonist is the driver for criminal activity that goes horribly sideways. But it’s also got elements of “Phone Booth” and other Closed Circle films, in that the action never, ever leaves one place: his car.

The anonymous Wheelman is working to pay off a debt, and doesn’t want to know who he’s working with, or for - until he does. He got the car from someone else to do a job. He’s got a cell phone. Does he have a gun, one character asks. Everything we see and hear is from the perspective of the car, or a phone conversation.

For players

The Wheelman has a job, an obligation, a social network. But the film remembers that not everyone in that network is friendly to everyone else. Other people have jobs, and obligations, and often won’t tell each other what’s going on for their own reasons.

His life feels lived in. At one point, the Wheelman is trying to describe where to find something, in a drawer near the sink with stuff in it. A family member immediately describes it as “the shit drawer”, and he says that’s right. People have nicknames for each other and for things. He knows exactly where to find some of his acquaintances, based on their habits and history.

For GMs

The movie maintains tension by not showing us anything outside the car or its surroundings. We get suggestions of violence, kidnapping, and dirty dealing, but we’re never ever allowed to leave the car and see what’s really happening. For that reason, we feel the same fear as the Wheelman himself, who’s good in a fight but powerless to intervene sometimes.

The ongoing situation has multiple moving parts. The movie plays with its protagonist’s assumptions: he thinks there’s a handler for the job, and when he gets an anonymous phone call, he calls that individual by that title. But what’s the real relationship between that person, the Wheelman’s contact Clay, and the mysterious other parties that are texting him in his car? What is the deal with the two bank robbers he picks up - what were they really told to do?

Your connections want things. Do they care, personally, about the PCs? If not, and if they don’t have a rep for honesty or something, they’ll tell the PCs something - not the truth, but whatever is needed to point them in the right direction.


Oh, I love closed circle stories. Hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to stop reading here (for now) and watch the movie tomorrow.

I did my best to avoid any spoilers. But yeah, it feels like a good worthwhile watch.

1 Like

Just finished watching it and it was a fine movie. I don’t think I would have watched it unprompted but I’m glad I did. I also agree with all of Bill’s insights.