‘Getaway’ Movie Review

Movies
September 9, 2013

Ethan Hawke stars in a gear-grinding fireball of a movie mess.

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Getaway
Starring Ethan Hawke & Selena Gomez
Directed by Courtney Solomon
PG-13, 90 min.
Released Aug. 30, 2013

“Moderation in all things,” cautioned the ancient Roman dramatist Terence, who obviously didn’t have anything to do with this stinking, smoking backfire of a modern movie.

Because good ol’ Terence has been gone for more than 2,000 years—and also because there’s nothing in moderation about “Getaway,” which is basically one long, excessive, over-the-top, pedal-to-the-metal car chase. It’s the movie equivalent of reading a letter from someone who types everything in ALL CAPS, and ends each sentence with a handful of exclamation points (!!!!).

In what passes for a plot, Ethan Hawke plays a disgraced race driver blackmailed into stealing an extremely tricked-out Shelby GT500 Super Snake and driving like hell through a town in Bulgaria with a young woman (former Disney star Selena Gomez) riding shotgun.

If he doesn’t get to where he’s supposed to go, and do exactly what he’s told to do en route, something very bad will happen to his kidnapped wife.

Hawke’s character receives his driving instructions from a mystery man (Jon Voight) with a smarmy Euro-accent coming from the car’s hi-tech dashboard phone: “Turn left!” “Drive through the market!” “Ram the truck!”

The mystery man has set things up so the passenger—a spoiled little rich girl with mad computer-hacking skillz and a rich banker daddy, as fate would have it—would come along at just the right moment to become a part of his plan. And he’s rigged the car with cameras, inside and out, so he (and we) can see what’s going on, from every conceivable angle.

That actually makes the wildly implausible story seem like it makes more sense, and moves along more reasonably, than it does. Onscreen, it’s a screeching, gear-grinding fireball of a mess, so full of preposterous plot holes it’s a miracle its muscle-car star can maneuver anywhere around them, much less speed along like a magic, 200-hp bullet as it evades armies of policemen and avoids hitting hundreds of pedestrians.

The movie’s so focused on revving its engine, in fact, it lets story details and everything else slide. It certainly doesn’t have time to waste on its characters. Only Hawke’s has a proper full name, and it’s a testosterone-oozing doozie: Brent Mangra. Gomez is simply The Kid, Voight is known only as The Voice—and seen, until the very end of the movie, only from the back of his head or from his nose down. When the credits roll, with the exception of Mangra’s wife and her first name, everyone else is a Henchman, Thug, or Driver.

I didn’t get why The Kid told Mangra “That was awesome!” after one adrenaline-pumping close call, then the very next second later snaps at him, “I really, really hate you!” I don’t understand how shooting a guy on a motorcycle makes a whole train depot explode. And why couldn’t Jon Voight just talk in his regular voice?

At some point, certainly, somebody must have understood more about this movie that I did, including director Courtney Solomon, who obviously thought it was stylish and cool to make a movie that relied so heavily on footage shot from grill-mounted cams, fender cams, hood cams, dashboard cams and various other cameras in places too impractical or too dangerous to put a human operator.

There is, however, one very cool sequence, late in the film, from the perspective of the front of the Super Snake as it pursues another vehicle at high speed, maneuvering, braking, speeding up and slowing down through intersections and around other cars and trucks. It’s as simple as that, and it only lasts about 60 seconds. But it’s so strikingly different from anything else in the movie, and yet so much more thrilling, it made me wonder it was shot and edited by another film crew entirely.

But after a while, it all becomes exhausting, a big clotted clog of fumes and dust and grit, inane dialogue, ridiculous plotting, and bent, twisted metal. And when “Getaway” was over, not only did I feel like I’d been dragged along for every tedious mile, I was grateful to be able to crawl away from the wreckage. I only hope Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, Jon Voight and the director can, too.

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