A film review by Craig J. Koban September 13, 2013


2013, R, 89  mins.


Ethan Hawke as Brent Magna  /  Selena Gomez as The Kid  /  Jon Voight as The Voice  /  Paul Freeman as The Man (voice)  /  Bruce Payne as Distinguished man  /  Rebecca Budig as Leanne

Directed by Courtney Solomon  /  Written by Sean Finegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker

GETAWAY could have achieved a level of dopey and wildly inane fun as a smash ‘em up car chase thriller if it were not such a…well…stupid and humorless ride.  Even when the film does manage to achieve small snippets here and there of vehicular destruction brilliance, it’s certainly not enough to sustain what felt like a tediously long running time of 89 minutes.  We are served up such a never-ending supply of chases, crashes, chases, crashes...and more chases, crashes….that it becomes more monotonous by the minute.  That, and GETAWAY contains, for my money, an egregiously mismatched pairing of actors in Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez; collectively, they never really manage to find a manner of authentically playing off of one another.  

Not that character development is this film’s strong suit, mind you.  Nor is a narrative, for that matter.  If anything, the cockamamie and eye rolling script is just a flimsy excuse to frame the film’s sometimes thrilling, but sometimes ludicrous chase sequences.  Hawke (who looks like he regretted being in this film in most scenes) plays Brent Magna, a former race car driver falling on hard times that – in the film’s opening scene – finds his home burglarized and his wife missing, apparently abducted.  He then receives a call on his cell by a faceless and unidentified criminal (Jon Voight), who informs Brent that his wife has been kidnapped and that he must do precisely what he instructs…or she will be killed.  First up for Brent is to steal a beefed-up muscle car that is conveniently packed with all kinds of microphones and surveillance cameras, which allows the villain to monitor Brent’s every move. 

The frazzled Brent begrudgingly agrees to the baddie’s request, but along the way he is carjacked by…yes…the vehicle’s original owner, a young woman referred to in the credits as “The Kid” (Selena Gomez), who manages to – mostly out of plot contrivance – to be in the car with Brent throughout the duration of his ordeal.  This leads to ample obligatory bickering between the pair and a whole lot of DOA dialogue exchanges.  When they are not at each other’s throats, Brent and the Kid find themselves careening the car through a series of maddening and increasingly implausible scenarios engineered by their tormentor, all in hopes of finding Brent’s wife alive.  Rather hysterically, this is one of those kind of car chase thrillers where the hero’s auto manages to incredulously escape becoming a scrapheap while all other cars pursuing it are reduced to flipped-over fiery rubble. 



Poor Ethan Hawke.  Poor, poor Ethan.  He is a far finer and dignified actor to allow himself to wallow in mediocre film waters such as this, which is not assisted by the fact that the film takes its story as seriously as a heart attack.  If GETAWAY had a morsel of a sly edge with the material – or at least wink to the audience that it is, all in all, a seriously preposterous film – then it would have been that much more tolerable of an experience.  Granted, Hawke has to perform opposite of Gomez, which is no help.  She was certainly solid in SPRING BREAKERS early this year, but in GETAWAY she probably makes the least believable teenage-hoodlum/grease monkey/computer hacker expert in a movie in a long time (she looks like she belongs on a fashion runway more than on the streets).  That, and she’s one of those highly convenient movie characters that serves no other purpose other than being able to miraculous hack into anything and everything with something as simple as her iPad.  Yup.  Sure.  Uh-huh. 

I found myself asking a lot of other dumb questions all throughout GETAWAY, which essentially sullied any level of growing interest in it.  Like, for instance, why plaster Jon Voight’s name in all the advertising when the filmmakers just coyly hide his face as the villain throughout the story, only at the end to reveal his face?  Makes no sense.  Also, why is this movie set in Bulgaria?  It’s never fully established as to why it is.  Furthermore, Voight’s antagonist can apparently see and hear everything that Brent and the Kid do and say in the car, so why wouldn’t he try to stop their plans, which they hash out while in the car?  Then there is the thorny and often foggy back-story of Brent’s character as a whole.  It’s basically fleshed out that he’s a former racecar driver that could have been a contender, and little in the film establishes him as anything but a proverbial good guy.  Yet, he seems to have no problem at all endangering countless lives – including police officers - on the Bulgarian streets in an effort to save his kidnapped wife.  

I guess that what we are left with are the film’s chase sequences, because films like this are only as good as them.  I will say this: GETAWAY has moments of visual inspiration and has a nifty look.  Some of the film is shot traditionally, whereas other times it utilizes HD video and tiny car mounted security cameras and the film is pretty slick with alternating between them.  There is also one late breaking chase sequence that is kind of masterful: It involves one very long, unbroken shot through the windshield of Brent’s car as he races through multiple blocks and several miles in pursuit of another driver, all while evading incoming cars and pedestrians.  Individual moments like this are so thrillingly novel and heart racing that they sort of help to wash away the film’s litany of wicked and head shaking preposterousness. 

Alas, there are simply not enough instances of invention in GETAWAY like this, mostly because the majority of the other car chase set pieces are done with those annoying shaky cam hysterics and edited together in haphazardly assembled little bits here and there; gaining a sense of what’s happening becomes nearly impossible at times.  When are directors going to finally wise up and learn that the best manner to evoke the in-the-moment intensity of an action or chase scene is to present it with clarity and not headache-inducing visual overkill?  Looking back at some of the classic car chase sequences of yesteryear (like in BULLET and THE FRENCH CONNECTION) you gain an immediate sense of the geography of those sequences.  In GETAWAY I felt like I needed a roadmap. 

Maybe I’m asking for too much.  The past credits of GETAWAY director Courtney Solomon does not inspire much advance hope (DUNGEONS & DRAGONS and AN AMERICAN HAUNTING), which should have been a warning sign for me before I journeyed into the screening.  Yet, there are pieces sprinkled through GETAWAY that could have made it a go-for-broke and giddily enjoyable visceral thriller, but when you populate a film with charmless characters largely void of personalities and engage them in an indescribably silly plot that rarely provides any tension or suspense, then what’s the point?  GETAWAY should have been sent back to the garage for servicing before it was allowed out on the streets.

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