Since the vapid plot line of the new film, “Getaway” focuses largely on several repetitively tedious and chaotically crafted car chases; let’s figuratively cut to the chase… and declare emphatically from the start – “Getaway” is truly one of the worst films of 2013.
“Getaway” features actor Ethan Hawke, who put forth an extraordinary performance, along with Julie Delpy, earlier this summer in “Before Midnight”. Sadly, after hitting a home run with that wonderfully nuanced and powerful film, Hawke decided to sign on for this abysmal piece of crap that should have never left the executive pitch-room dugout.
Hawke plays Brent Magna ( yes, that’s really his name ) an ex-race car driver who has left the sport for rather nebulous reasons as barely explained in this film and indeed, reasons that are inconsequential to the threadbare plot anyway. Without much introductory exposition, Hawke returns to his home in Sofia, Bulgaria one evening to discover his wife ( Rebecca Budig ) has been kidnapped. The foreign Bulgarian location might as well have been shot in Scranton, PA given the sheer lack of local flavor or minimal recognition to the surroundings that director Courtney Solomon displays in this literal car wreck of a film.
In short order, Magna receives a phone call where “The Voice” ( as described in the film’s closing credits ) instructs him that he has to perform a number of seemingly inexplicable and dangerous acts behind the wheel of a souped-up, custom-built Shelby Super Snake Mustang. If Magna fails any of the tasks, he’s told his wife will be killed. The sleek vehicle used to accomplish these deeds has been tricked out for Magna’s usage with special armor and rigged with multiple cameras designed to keep tabs on his actions under the watchful eye of Magna’s mysteriously malevolent puppet master on the phone ( Jon Voight )
The voice instructs Magna to do all sorts of reckless acts such as plow his car at high speed into street markets, parks and more locales that are crowded with all sorts of innocent nighttime pedestrians and bystanders. He’s ordered to crash into things without regard for damage or endangering the people nearby who are forced to jump for cover like scurrying rats. However, we’re expected to believe Magna’s superb skill as a former race car driver helps him manage to avoid hitting not even one person among dozens over the course of the film.
In one of the many ludicrous moments in “Getaway”, Magna’s car even traverses across a skating rink filled with skaters at high speed and not only avoids hitting anyone; but also, the car defies the law of physics by maneuvering over a sheer ice surface without Magna losing control. Of course, before long, Magna’s car is being chased by scores of police cars leading to plenty of cliched car crashes, pile-ups and flying vehicles landing on their roofs and worse. All this random mayhem is supposed to be rivetingly exciting action. However, instead it quickly becomes merely excruciatingly boring and repetitive.
Just once, I’d like to see a director make a film that courageously features, however briefly, the realistic aftermath of such car crash mayhem. In real life, you don’t plow into crowds of people on the sidewalk or have dozens of cars crashing head-on without someone being injured and/or killed. A film like “Getaway” turns otherwise horrific car crashes into mere video game-like fodder, where despite the widespread carnage, no one really dies.
Then again, “Getaway” has worse problems beyond it’s being unrealistic.
During one of Magna’s brief respites following the voice’s thus far indiscernible instructions, a young woman ( Selena Gomez ) attempts to steal the car from Magna at gunpoint. Magna quickly and easily disarms her of the weapon ( in part because, well – she’s cute, young Selena Gomez. At least there’s some realism right here. ) After that, the voice orders Magna to take Gomez’ young character along for the wild, crazy ride ahead for reasons that are left unexplained for much of the film. Over the remaining 60-odd minutes of this 90-minute embarrassment, we are witness to more and more car crash mayhem, as the voice orders Magna on a mission that seems to have no purpose.
However, Gomez’ character reveals herself to be a sort of bratty techno-genius who ultimately figures out the felonious end game of the voice’s night of confusion – which involves the robbing of a special kind of bank that handles billions of dollars in electronic currency.
“Getaway” is nothing more than a horribly constructed action film with no heart, no purpose, no characters really worth caring about. Any attempts at character development are displayed in wooden shallow snippets shoehorned amid amateurish direction and shabby editing. Scene after scene is chopped together like it was edited in a Cuisinart. A close up of a gas pedal here, a screeching tire there, a police car careening into a pole or something else; all of which matters not a whit to advance any semblance of a coherent story.
At one point, we’re witness to the film’s lone “money shot” of the climactic car chase where finally the camera stays on the action for a bit more than a mere millisecond. The main problem, among many, is that the scene takes place during the dim-morning glow of sunrise, and then cuts abruptly to the same car chase clearly shot in the much brighter light of mid day at least.
Continuity, anyone ?
Hawke and Gomez are relegated to silly bickering amid the mayhem before deciding to work together to get themselves out of this jam and outthink the voice that’s taken control of their lives for the night. Hawke is forced to evoke one-dimensional frustration, fear and confusion while constantly steering the car.
Gomez suffers from simply being too cute and unrealistic for a role that calls for a tougher looking actress rather than a still cherubic-faced former Disney star. At least, in the far superior “Spring Breakers”, director Harmony Korine utilized Gomez’ “good girl” looks and acting skills to fine dramatic effect by capitalizing on her perceived innocence. When Gomez’ character brandishes a gun at Hawke in “Getaway”, you have to try hard to stifle an outburst of incredulous laughter.
Both Hawke and Gomez are also hindered by incredibly bad and simplistic dialogue written by screenwriters Sean Finegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker.
As for “the voice”, Jon Voight is displayed throughout the film via a leering mouth with bad teeth seen in close up. Only until the film’s ridiculously contrived finale do we see Voight revealed full on, as if it’s supposed to be a hugely satisfying surprise to the audience. It’s not.
“Getaway” is nothing less than a throwaway film intentionally meant to be lost and quickly forgotten in the theatrical garbage bin of a Labor Day weekend where most audiences will be enjoying a barbecue rather than a movie theater. At least one can give this so-called “film” one bit of positive acknowledgement.
It’s one movie this summer that inadvertently offers an audience advisory warning in it’s very title. Once you’ve seen this film, you truly will want to get as far away from this travesty as soon as possible.
Or simply take heed of the title beforehand, and getaway before wasting your time and money.
Tim Estiloz is a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Boston Online Film Critics Association. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimEstiloz and at www.TimEstiloz.com. – Be sure to LIKE his page on Facebook at: Tim Estiloz Film Reviews.