Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez in Numbing, Awful ‘Getaway’

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Average: 3.3 (3 votes) Oscarman rating: 1.0/5.0
Rating: 1.0/5.0

CHICAGO – You know a car chase movie is poorly made when you’re longing for more dialogue scenes between Selena Gomez & Ethan Hawke just to break up the tedium of the neverending, personality-free vehicular nonsense. At one point, Hawke’s character actually says, after one of several situations that could never possibly be replicated in the real world, “I can’t believe that actually worked.” I’m assuming he said something similar when he cashed the paycheck for what is easily one of the worst films of his career. Hawke is a smart, talented actor, and I’m sure he thought at one point that “Getaway” could be a fun B-movie slice of escapism. But he had to realize during production that this poorly-written, awfully-directed hunk of junk wasn’t going to connect with anyone (which is why it’s being buried in the non-hit weekend of Labor Day) as even he looks bored during this non-action movie. You will be too.

I will say that “Getaway” gets points for wasting no time at all. There’s no introduction to the character, no set-up, not even any time spent with Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) and his wife (Rebecca Budig) before the latter is kidnapped, sending Magna into a bizarre hybrid of “Die Hard with a Vengeance,” “Compliance,” and “Fast Five.” Magna is ordered to steal a high-speed car that has been equipped with numerous cameras. When he gets in it, his wife’s kidnapper (Jon Voight, seen almost entirely through shots of his mouth talking on the phone, leading one to wonder if it’s even the legendary actor or someone doing an impression) calls Brent and tells him that he must follow every instruction on a crash course through Bulgaria. If he doesn’t follow an order, his wife will die.

Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Before you can digest your first bites of popcorn, Brent is speeding through crowded Christmas markets, crashing into stages, and driving through an underground mall. His orders seem to just be to generally cause chaos until he ends up, seemingly randomly at first, picking up the actual owner (Selena Gomez) of the car that holds him hostage. The street-wise, tough kid passenger brings a new degree of ridiculousness to the saga, both in that she becomes an integral part of the schemes of Brent’s tormentor but also in the way she responds to all of it. After seeing footage of Brent’s wife with a gun to her head, the character known only as “The Kid,” complains about the paint job being ruined on her ride. Action and dialogue in “Getaway” feel so out of place with the way that people would actually behave in the real world that it approaches the level of parody.

The rest of “Getaway” unfolds in predictable and increasingly depressing ways. The pair drives for a little bit, get spotted by the cops (if they’re caught, Brent’s wife will be killed), and are forced to speed away, doing millions of dollars in property damage along the way and apparently having an indestructible vehicle of their own. It got to the point that every sound of a siren caused me to sink in my seat with despair, surely not the response director Courtney Solomon was going for.

Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

To say the driving scenes are poorly conceived, directed, and edited would be an understatement. They lack all of the B-movie glee of a “Fast & Furious” movie. Heck, they don’t even produce the thrills of most race car driving video games. And they share a structural commonality with video games in that shots often seem interchangeable. Here’s a shot of a cop car, a grainy one of our hero’s car turning, a shot of a bumper, a shot of a headlight – we never get any sense of location, actual danger, space, speed: The elements needed to make a movie like this work. The action scenes in “Getaway” border on incoherent but just end up boring.

Without exciting car chase scenes in a movie called “Getaway,” what’s left? Almost nothing. Voight seems to know that his estimated three days of shooting were for a B-movie and so he has fun chewing as much ridiculous dialogue as he can but Gomez is grating to the extreme. She’s a typically likable actress but she’s miscast here. Well, that’s not really fair. No one could have pulled off a character so thinly designed as a plot device that she doesn’t even get a name.

Ethan Hawke has developed a fascinating career by alternating working with auteurs on films like “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” and “Before Midnight” with low-budget, mainstream work in films like “Sinister” and “The Purge.” I love the fact that he refuses to put himself in a box, willing to do whatever interests him across multiple genres. It’s made him a fascinating actor. Maybe he just wanted a good car chase movie on his ever-expanding resume. Hopefully, he’ll be in one soon because this ain’t it.

“Getaway” stars Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, and Jon Voight. It was directed by Courtney Solomon. It opens on Friday, August 30, 2013. content director Brian Tallerico

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