Getaway (2013) / Action-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, rude gestures, and langauge
Running time: 90 min.
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, Jon Voight, Rebecca Budig
Director: Courtney Solomon
Screenplay: Sean Finegan, Gregg Maxwell Parker
Review published August 31, 2013
Every once in a while, a film will come out that is so abysmally dreadful, it's almost not worth going through all of the ways that it could have been made better, because you just don't know where to begin, or when to end. The one most prominent change I would make right off of the bat is to put a space between the first and second syllable of the title, as that would be the best warning that Warner Bros. could give to anyone remotely thinking about spending even one penny for what amounts to a 90-minute dunderheaded assault on the intelligence of even the most imbecilic of theater-goers.
We start the film somewhere in the middle, with Ethan Hawke (The Purge, Before Midnight) playing a former pro race car driver named Brent Magna (a 'B.M.' in a film that amounts to one), who gave up his once promising career as one of the world's finest on the circuit in a traumatic crash on the track. To make ends meet, he's been living day to day as a driver for hire on the streets of Sofia, Bulgaria, but on this day, it's against his will, as someone has kidnapped his beloved wife (Budig, "All My Children") and is holding her for ransom, threatening to kill her if Magna doesn't do everything the mysterious man (Voight, An American Carol) whose voice is emanating from the car's speakers tells him to do. Cameras are everywhere within the vehicle, a heavily armored Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 (to which this film serves as a commercial for the 2014 model), giving the nemesis a view of Brent's every motion, both inside and out (it's a lot like Speed, without the fun factor).
Magna is racing against time, jumping through every hoop that the voice impels him to, while pedestrians leap out of the way of the speeding roadster to save their lives and cops screech manically behind him in fast pursuit that often ends in twisted metal carnage. Things take an odd turn when Brent is carjacked at the gunpoint of a baby-faced teenage girl in a hoodie (Gomez, Hotel Transylvania), who claims that Brent is in her stolen vehicle, and who loses control of the situation only to become yet another captive participant in the voiced man's grand scheme. She also happens to be quite the hacker, threatening to turn the tables on the kidnappers in a way that is making Brent very nervous for the fate of his wife.
Someone must have had scandalous photographs of Ethan Hawke and a farm animal in order to blackmail him into signing on to a film this obviously vacuous and light years beyond any shred of fundamental narrative plausibility. I'd say that Getaway should probably only exist as the main premise of a demolition-style console driving game, but even video game manufacturers would have likely given a derivative action-based plot like this a pass for being too dumb to market.
Getaway is directed aggressively by Courtney Solomon (An American Haunting, Dungeons & Dragons), who masturbates his quick-cut, explode-a-riffic, montage style for nearly the entire hour and a half. The best shot in the movie is the only one that lasts more than three seconds -- a long take, first-person view of Brent in hot pursuit of another vehicle down the length of a semi-busy street. It's the only riveting piece of cinema in a film full of non-stop chasing, crashes, gunfire and massive destruction -- if you're not making fun of how overblown it is, you'll likely be fighting off sleep. The nearly nonexistent screenplay is credited to two first-time screenwriters, Sean Finegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker, who must have written it on a piece of paper no larger than the size of a cocktail napkin, with a storyline so generic, there are only two people in the entire cast who have actual names.
As mentioned in my first paragraph, I'm hesitant to even begin listing all of the things that this film does poorly and without an iota of intelligence, for fear I'll never finish the review. Utilizing but one example, the entire film is shot for budgetary reasons in the country of Bulgaria, except with an English-speaking cast of characters that have conveniently moved to the city of Sofia, the capital and largest city of Bulgaria, for reasons that defy plausible reasoning that an American car driver would be carjacked by one of the only other Americans in the city. Meanwhile, the Sofia police somehow know, despite never speaking directly to the passengers in the car to surmise their nationalities, to command them to stop their vehicle, shouting their orders entirely in English.
OK, here is another dumb thing now that I'm thinking about the brainlessly inept behavior of the city's law enforcement: none of these cops bother to try to blow out the tires of the armored Mustang at any time. It's astonishing given how many bullets the car is riddled with that not a single one of them ever get hit. Then again, none of the car's windows are so much as scratched either -- perhaps Sofia cops are just shooting at the Mustang with superballs instead of bullets?
Anyone who knows Jon Voight will know immediately that the "voice" is his, especially after we see his heavy jowls, mouth and eyes, so why his entire face isn't shown until the end is just one baffling choice among many. Selena Gomez is grossly miscast as the street-tough kid with genius-level computing abilities (interesting that an iPad has all of the tools necessary to plug into the car's souped-up security system set up by bad guys so proficient, they can concoct a scheme to steal billions from the most well-protected networks in the world, yet can't keep a teenager from stymying them with about three swipes of her index finger.
With cardboard characterizations, bizarre motivations, redundant mind-numbing displays of car-flipping mayhem, and not a single moment of distinguishing dialogue, Getaway will go down not only as one of the worst theatrical releases of 2013, but also might be the dumbest film to star two Oscar-nominated actors since Battlefield Earth (challenge me on this if you must, but it will be a hard sell). Audiences will join the main characters by begging to be let out of this vehicle at the first available opportunity.
©2013 Vince Leo