Well good job, Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez! With one movie you’ve managed to make all of the good work you’ve done this year irrelevant. Hawke, coming off a sterling return to his indie roots with Before Midnight, plus a surprising horror smash in The Purge, slices his IQ and ours in half for the insipid sub WWE-level Getaway, a film with about a thousand car wrecks (not really exaggerating here) and still manages to be painfully dull. At least he’s not the woefully miscast Gomez, playing a bad girl not totally unlike her role in the far superior Spring Breakers. But with her flat, robotic delivery someone might want to check her back for a pull string.
Wanting desperately to be Fast & Furious, Getaway is more like the schizophrenic cousin to 12 Rounds and all the awfulness that implies. To its credit, likely the only credit it will receive here, the film makes no bones about what it is or what kind of crap you’re in store for. Torturously directed by F-lister Courtney Solomon, it begins with Hawke racing all over Bulgaria like a mad man, intercut with an incoherent flashback flurry that kind of tells us why. His wife has been kidnapped, the home wrecked (including their poor Christmas tree), and now he’s being forced to race up and down the crowded streets at the command of some guy on the phone who sounds vaguely like Werner Herzog, or the villain from Lethal Weapon 2. If only it was Herzog, because that would be kind of awesome and disorienting like when he turned up in Jack Reacher, but instead it’s just Jon Voight, who hasn’t done anything meaningful since he bit Kramer’s arm on Seinfeld.
In-between the dozens of car chases, all shot with ponderous incompetence that ensures you’ll be bored within minutes, we learn that Hawke’s character is the ridiculously-named Brent Magna, a former racing bad boy who “washed out” of the sport, and got in trouble with some criminal types. Why it takes him so long to figure out they might be the reason he’s in this mess, when we’ve figured it out the very friggin’ moment he says it, is a question that boggles the mind. After being instructed to pull into a parking garage, he gets carjacked by Disneyfied thug/computer hacker, who reveals the muscled Mustang he’s driving actually belongs to her. Forced to take her along because the disembodied voice says so, it’s clear that she’s only there to give us something else to look at other than Hawke’s glowering mug. Hawke has starred in a lot of really terrible movies in his career, but when he’s checked out it is totally obvious. He couldn’t look more disinterested than if he was tweeting mid-sentence, and Gomez doesn’t help out much. To be fair, it’s not like the “writer” had major plans for her, because she doesn’t even have a name until about five minutes before the end credits.
So basically the entirety of the 90 minute run time, which feels somehow like 190 minutes, involves Hawke barreling through the streets chased by the world’s most incompetent and unlawful cops ever. First of all, these keystone coppers never seem to show up until Magna is on his next “test”, as if someone flips a switch and unleashes them into the city like marbles in a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. And when they aren’t causing just as much property damage (we’re talkin’ Man of Steel levels here), they’re acting like clowns by repeatedly challenging Magna’s vehicle which has the armor of a small tank. Motorcycle cops against a speeding tank? Hope they have a lot of empty space at the local morgue.
A better director could have probably coaxed something interesting out of this relatively generic premise, at least giving us a competent single-location thriller with echoes of Phone Booth or Speed. Solomon, who gave us the embarrassing Dungeons & Dragons years ago, is not the filmmaker for the job, haphazardly editing every scene with a dizzying array of quick cuts and zoom ins/zoom outs, repeated ad nauseum until your stomach churns. The villain tracks Magna’s every move through cameras set up along the inside of the car, which Solomon uses as an excuse to randomly jar us by switching to digital video for no apparent reason.
There does manage to be one really good scene during the end, and rather than spoiling it here it’s best left to be discovered. You’ll have no problem recognizing it; it’s the one that looks nothing like the crap you’ve just been suffering through. There’s a labored attempt to launch some sort of franchise, and despite how unsavory that notion might be the chances are Getaway will live on in cheaply produced straight-to-DVD sequels helmed by hacks.