Incredibly simple and vastly unoriginal, “Getaway” offers little plot amidst its nearly nonstop succession of car chase sequences. Many of these segments are elaborate, destructive, and clearly aimed at a “The Fast and the Furious” crowd, though recycled ideas abound and tempestuous editing and camera-work rarely let the eye focus on the impressive stunts. When the action does briefly pause for the two protagonists to converse, one remains relatively quiet while the other chatters incessantly without providing any real insight into their dire situation (Selena Gomez’ character isn’t even given a name!). The dialogue isn’t completely without merit, but few would bother delving further into the banter when it’s overtly apparent the car feats are the film’s real stars. But when the pursuit begins anew, literally every few minutes, ironically it’s the moments of calm that present the most enjoyment.
When his wife is kidnapped in Sofia, Bulgaria, former racecar driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) is thrust into a treacherous game against a relentless madman. The mysterious voice of his wife’s kidnapper (Jon Voight) instructs Brent from a cell phone to follow his directives, or his loved one will die. At first dictated to cause ruination by driving through crowded parks and destroying property in a stolen Shelby Mustang, the game quickly escalates when Brent must hold hostage the car’s real owner, a headstrong teenage girl (Selena Gomez). With instructions to avoid apprehension by the police, Brent and his new passenger must continue to participate in exceedingly calamitous crimes until the two determine their only chance for survival is to uncover the kidnapper’s true motives and stop his malevolent scheme.
The first series of commands for Brent resemble “Grand Theft Auto” missions so closely, it’s difficult not to simply consider this movie a filmed version of the video game. Like “GTA,” the amusement of causing as much havoc and chaos as possible isn’t lost on the filmmakers, as the Shelby is driven through heavily crowded pedestrian areas – during Christmastime, putting “Getaway” alongside other nontraditional holiday movies like “Reindeer Games” and “Die Hard.” Movies about fast cars and tire-screeching adventures aren’t in short supply, recalling the recent “Fast and Furious” franchise, “Drive,” “Gone in 60 Seconds,” and “The Transporter” trilogy, while also borrowing from the plethora of heist and kidnapping themed movies out there, including “Taken,” “Frantic,” “Die Hard: With a Vengeance,” the original “The Getaway,” and the several adaptations of Richard Stark novels.
This one has a fabulously one-track mindset: burning rubber, careening around darkened streets, outrunning cops, crashing vehicles, and firing machineguns. The story is so simplistic, even while trying to be clever with the ultimate antagonist motive, it barely matters whether or not the two lead characters have any chemistry. Their conversations are limited, the girl remains anonymous in name and backstory, and more often than not, audiences will wonder why certain reactions appear so mundane as opposed to concerning themselves with the “why” and the “who.” Gomez starts particularly unappealingly, struggling to authenticate her irritable and stubborn character with the panic or concern expected from a young, shocked victim. Hawke, on the other hand, is immediately more comfortable in his part, though the role isn’t unusually demanding. Every persona in the film would definitely have improved with some cursing – in fact, “Getway” is probably the screenplay most craving of expletives to heighten the believability. Totaling cars and waving deadly weapons around while keeping bad language in check is tremendously phony.
But the main character in the film (and certainly the focus) is the car, which is involved in nonstop action, with many genuinely exhilarating stunts and creative choreography to steadily entertain around the occasional moments of exposition. Most of the camera-work and several of the shots toward the climax are so astounding, they quickly supersede the derivative qualities of the plot. Essentially, most sloppy story point (such as the lack of police helicopters and road spikes, questionable protocol, and extremely dangerous pursuit tactics) can be ignored due to the foreign country setting (assuming Bulgarian public safety budgets are tight). Recklessly wrecking automobiles and motorcycles in fiery blasts doesn’t seem to require purpose when done with a divertingly frenzied artistic energy.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)