When you read a story in the newspaper, you can feel that someone will adapt it into a movie at some point in the future. This was the situation with the story that served as the impetus for The Accidental Getaway Driver, which begins in the neighbourhood of Little Saigon in Orange County, California. A middle-aged guy named Long, portrayed by Hip Trngha and who works as a driver, is the main character in The Accidental Getaway Driver.
He receives a call from a man named Tay, portrayed by Dustin Nguyen, late at night, after he has already changed into his pyjamas, inquiring about employment opportunities. Long meets Tay in the ABC Supermarket on Bolsa Avenue, where he makes a promise to pay twice, and he quickly becomes entangled in the problems that Tay and his associates are experiencing.
Long finds out too late that Tay and his two buddies are fugitives from justice who have escaped prison and need to get away from him. If you are familiar with the history of the real-life Long, you will be aware of how this story plays out in the end for both Long and Tay; nevertheless, if you are not, the setup may at times appear to be unbelievable. Sing J. Lee, also the film’s co-writer and director, delicately crafted the narrative.
The narrative does not focus excessively on the crime drama aspects of the situation. The friendship between these two Vietnamese men takes centre stage, rather than any other aspect of the story. Lee, who is well-known for his work in the music video industry and has collaborated with musicians such as Migos, Donald Glover, Rich Brian, and Alicia Keys, brings a unique aesthetic to the film he directed. The Accidental Getaway Driver has many moments that feel like they were taken straight out of the Hong Kong cinema aesthetic of the 1980s, thanks to the use of gloomy hues and deep shadows throughout the film.
The film is visually appealing and is a story of how people connect with one another. Both Long and Tay are first-generation Vietnamese immigrants who have struggled to make ends meet throughout their lives. These two men represent people who haven’t appeared on TV before, a welcome change from the tired old trope of the model minority. Long is a solitary individual. He served his country during the war and escaped from prison camps in Vietnam. Because he has spent the past 20 years away from his children and his wife, he has a strained relationship with all of them. In the United States, he has difficulty communicating with his monolingual children in English and has friction with his family members who have adopted the local culture.
He discovers a familial relationship of sorts with Tay. Tay is a nice man at his core, even though he spent time in prison for selling narcotics and other offences. While his comrades use Long as a captive, Tay can develop a relationship with the elderly guy by speaking the same language. Although it becomes increasingly obvious over time, Tay’s interactions with Long reflect their upbringing, with the younger guy showing respect for the more experienced one and looking out for his best interests. Even though we are aware that he is a convicted criminal, it is clear that Tay is looking out for Long’s best interests.
Hip Tran Ngha performs outstandingly as the character Long communicates largely in Vietnamese with Tay. As the plot develops, we learn more about his history and get a clearer picture of his personality, even though he has a reserved demeanour at the novel’s beginning. Hip approaches the role of the older guy with deliberation and can play even in sequences in which he has no lines to deliver.
In a similar vein, Nguyen merits recognition for his performance as Tay, who, throughout the movie, battles between doing the right thing and doing the most convenient thing. When playing the role of Tay, Nguyen experiences a natural calmness. Tay is typically the most level-headed of the three escapees. As the connection between the two men grows stronger, we are also shown a softer and more vulnerable side of the man that lies beneath his cool exterior.
Although there are a few sequences toward the conclusion of The Accidental Getaway Driver that go too far into melodrama, particularly one scene on the beach that feels glaringly out of place, on the whole, Lee’s first-time feature film is a great one. When it weaves together hushed episodes from Long’s past, present, and future with Tay, the carefully crafted narrative is at its most powerful. The film that, on the surface, seems so similar to Collateral is, by the end of the film, actually much more personal, reminding us of the improbable bonds that we can share as humans and that it’s never too late to find a home and family beyond the conventional boundaries of what is expected of you.