Review: Car Crashes Make for an Obnoxious Train Wreck in 'Getaway'
by Jeremy Kirk
August 30, 2013
Do you like fast cars, high-speed chases, and enough cars flipping over on end they make a Tony Scott movie seem tame by comparison? Are you always in the mood to hear an engine revving and watch a driver shifting gears incessantly? Evidently, so are the people behind the new "high octane" thrill ride of a thriller, Getaway. But all the things that make fast-paced thrillers so exciting can't seem to find their way into this film. It's silly, safe, and, ultimately, stupid, nowhere near the combination you're looking for in something that's supposed to get your adrenaline pumping. And that's without commenting on the ridiculous plot.
That plot centers on Ethan Hawke as Brent Magna - good character name - a once-promising NASCAR driver now living a simpler and safer life in Bulgaria with his wife. But, as shown in the film's cold open, that life isn't meant to stay simple. Magna's wife is kidnapped, and he's directed by a strange voice on a cell phone to drive a souped-up Mustang covered in live-feed cameras through the city's streets. One night. Several instructions involving vehicular action. What can possibly go wrong?
Getaway has no problems jumping into third gear right from the get-go. Before we're even given a title card the film takes us through the first of many chases through Sofia, Magna hugging corners and zipping down streets while seemingly helpless, Bulgarian police wreck their cars left and right. Seriously, the Bulgarian police should have a beef with the film makers of Getaway for how inept they're made out to be. This is hardly the least of the film's problems, though.
It doesn't take long to realize director Courtney Solomon and screenwriters Sean Finegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker have little up their collective sleeve besides those chases from police and ridiculously staged stunts. Selena Gomez shows up quickly as the owner of the stolen Mustang, and her character gets taken along for the ride. Even with the screenplay's way of working her involvement into the story more than the casual bystander on the street, her presence adds little-to-nothing except for someone for Hawke to interact with besides a voice on the phone.
Getaway's chase/crash/dialogue/repeat structure isn't helped by the bigger picture at work here, the real reason why the man on the phone is doing this to Magna. By the time his grand plot is revealed, the film's energy has been sapped and we can only hope it goes through the motions of a final chase sequence quickly. Fortunately, it does, and even includes a rather impressive, single-take chase that only makes you yearn for more of that creativity. In a nutshell, it's too little too late at that point.
Even a film as riddled with logic issues, blatant set-ups and payoffs, and abysmal exposition can be saved if it delivers the one thing it promises. Getaway sure has a lot of chases scattered throughout, but their problems go way beyond how meaningless they are to the story. They are edited to the point of incomprehension, and Solomon's insistence on shooting everything in either medium, close, or extreme close-up doesn't do any of it any favors. Each chase becomes a more and more convoluted and jumbled mess of shots, most of which involve Hawke shifting those gears or stamping on those pedals. And you can forget about any sense of geography beyond the occasional, computer-screen layout of the city.
There isn't much to say for the acting here, either. Hawke does his job sitting down. Literally. The time or two he has to show real emotion are deflated by insincerity, especially when Magna is supposed to be thinking the absolute worst. As far as shifting gears and spinning the wheel, Hawke nails all of that. Gomez has even less to do, making every attempt at being the annoying, teen character who knows a thing or two about "code encryptions" and "public servers."
As the voice instructing Magna on his night of fast-paced thrills, we have Jon Voight, whose European accent reminds you very quickly of the character he played in Anaconda. That character was from Paraguay, but it doesn't stop the veteran actor from rehashing the accent. He's never menacing, and that problem stems from Voight's hammy-yet-lazy voice performance and the way the character is handled by the film makers. They never allow the villain to be menacing, always choosing for the safer road for the character's decisions that no real-world criminal would ever take.
Believability doesn't have to be an element to films that only offer the most surface level form of escapism. Getaway is a film that certainly wants to be that, and it's evident that Solomon and the screenwriters here enjoy a good chase movie. This film, however, is more obnoxious train wreck than stylish pile-up, constantly twisting that nerve that makes you wish for a better movie. At the very least, a more entertaining movie. Getaway never gets traction on either of those fronts.
Jeremy's Rating: 3 out of 10
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