“Getaway” is complete and utter madness from start to finish, and the worst part about it is that director Courtney Solomon insists we take it seriously. The tone is dark and gritty and the picture is shot (by Yaron Levy) in a raw, hand held style but the action is over-the-top and cartoonish. It’s as if Solomon is saying: “here are these completely ludicrous and stupid action scenarios, but we’re presenting them in a realistic, hardboiled manner so you have to take it seriously.” He wants to have it both ways, but unfortunately these are two totally different styles that, when mixed together, undermine each other. If you want to make an unrealistic and silly action movie then fine, but it also has to be self aware and playful, much like the “Fast and the Furious” movies are. And if you want the movie to be gritty and serious then you have to construct the action within a logical framework. The only fun that can be had while watching “Getaway” is from unintentional hilarity, though I wouldn’t call that much of a recommendation.
The movie gets going right away. Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke, doing the best he can in a poorly written role) comes home to find that his living room has been trashed and his wife missing. In overly dramatic black and white flashbacks--that resemble the cheaply produced “dramatic reenactments” one would see in a show like “America’s Most Wanted”-- we find out that his wife has been kidnapped by thugs and is being held hostage in some grimy rape dungeon. Brent gets a call from an unknown person, instructing him to go to a parking garage, steal an armored sports car (he calls it a “ very special car”) that’s been outfitted with video and audio surveillance and carry out a series of car related tasks or else Brent’s wife will be killed. Along the way he encounters the car’s actual owner, a pesky seventeen-year-old girl (Selena Gomez) who accompanies him on the ride.
The unknown man is played by Jon Voight—oh wait! I mean John Voight’s mouth, neck, hands and occasional eye. You see, he’s a mysterious guy and we’re not supposed to know his identity. But then, why bother showing us his other body parts? And why bother showing us that he’s in some crowded café with a laptop, tracking and monitoring Brent’s actions? In the credits he’s simply called “The Voice,” wouldn’t it be more mysterious to just let us hear his voice? At the end we do finally get to see all of him, although it doesn’t really matter because we still don’t find out who exactly he is, and yet Solomon treats it as a major revelation.
Anyway, where was I? So Jon Voight wants Brent to do a bunch of tasks, what are these tasks you ask? Well, first he tells him to drive recklessly through a crowded park, crashing into objects like a water tank and a stage. Then he tells Brent to lose the cops in four minutes for some reason. In short, he’s supposed to cause as much mindless destruction as he possibly can while in a car. Real clever tasks you’re having him do, Voight, what are you, a thirteen-year-old delinquent? I lost count of how many police cars are smashed, flipped and tossed into the air. And at one point Brent is driving on a train track while being pursued by even more cops and through some fancy maneuvering he makes one of the cars smash into a fuel tank that explodes, causing a chain reaction of fuel tank explosions all along the track. Seriously, did Solomon and screenwriters Sean Finegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker really expect us to take this nonsense seriously, just because there’s a woman in peril? And believe me there’s even more stupidity that follows.
By now I should mention that Brent used to be a race car driver who has since burned out because he believed everyone who said he was good, when he actually wasn’t. Clearly that’s a load of b.s. Brent is not only a good driver but he is seemingly the best driver ever, navigating the narrow city streets with ease and shaking the cops at every turn. Although driving appears to be the only thing he can do, as he’s a complete moron when it comes to everything else. This is where the girl comes in; she knows a lot about technology (at one point, in an homage to “Speed” she hacks into Jon Voight’s command center and puts a video of them doing nothing on a continuous loop to buy them some time) and she pretty much sounds out every development in the plot to both Brent and the audience.
She’s the brainy (as well as the tough angst-y teenage girl) sidekick obviously, but she’s also a rich spoiled brat who doesn’t shut her mouth once during the entire movie. While Brent is doing his glorified joyriding she tells him to slow down…but then she tells him to go faster. One minute she’s telling him that he’s a horrible driver, the next minute she’s calling his driving “awesome.” She has a different verbal reaction or response to everything he does. Her character is all over the place. Whatever promise Gomez showed as an actor in “Spring Breakers” earlier this year is basically thrown out the window with this annoying, overacting performance. She’s almost unbearable.
After the setup and after Brent and the girl (known as The Kid in the credits) embark on their wild ride, “Getaway” becomes one gloomy, chaotic and exhausting chase sequence after another. And these chase sequences have to be some of the worst, most muddled car chase scenes I’ve ever had the displeasure of seeing. Editor Ryan Dufrene must have been on a sugar high when he cut together the movie. It’s constantly cutting back and forth, showing us every angle and view of the car along with a few abrupt close ups of Brent’s face or his foot as it pushes down on the acceleration. It’s irritating for sure, but also disorienting, especially with the use of the handheld camera. Sitting in the theater I thought I was going to have a seizure. The audience has no idea where the car is in relation to Brent, The Kid or the environment and to see this over and over again is agonizing.
Even worse, when that madness isn’t happening we’re subjected to excruciatingly painful dialogue exchanges between Brent and The Kid. I guess it’s what Finegan and Parker think is banter. In one towards the beginning, the phrase “shut up” is uttered about seven or eight times between the two:
“You shut up!”
“No, you shut up!”
“Hey! Shut the hell up!”
And so on. This is the kind of exchange you would see in a bad comedy, but the fact that it’s in a super serious action/thriller is even more dreadful.
The movie is only ninety minutes but it feels like two hours. It keeps going on and on and on, until finally it reaches its conclusion. Without giving too much away (even though there’s not much to give away in the first place) Solomon and Co basically tell us that all of the madness and stupidity that came before was, ultimately, for nothing, making an already terrible movie even more terrible and worthless.