90 min., rated PG-13.
Last weekend, moviegoers were spoiled with two terrifically kicky genre entertainments—"You're Next" and "The World's End"—that both managed to do what they set out to do and then some, while also being smart and clever. Now, Labor Day weekend is here, offering the August throwaway "Getaway," and it calamitously fails on both counts. Story plausibility and editorial cohesion are both thrown to the curb in this flimsy, mechanical and (sometimes divertingly) stupid thriller, essentially a 90-minute car chase and commercial for the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Super Snake with the strange pairing of Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez that we've all been waiting for with bated breath. Most likely aiming to excite audiences and take them on a high-octane, over-the-top ride, this B, no, C-movie is more junky than aggressively bad and not bad for a couple car chases and unintentional giggles, which (for better or worse) are even fewer than last year's other hilarious non-comedy "Taken 2."
When his beautiful wife is kidnapped by hired hands in Sofia, Bulgaria, around Christmastime, ex-racecar driver Brent Magna (Hawke) must follow the instructions of the mastermind on the other end of the phone. First, he steals a sports car from a parking garage that has been installed with microphones and GoPro cameras to watch his every move. The vehicle's hooded 18-year-old owner (Gomez), also the daughter of a big-kahuna investment banker, finds Brent and pulls a gun on him, but ends up riding shotgun and becoming another pawn in the mysterious voice's nefarious plans. If Brent gets caught, contacts the police, or refuses to complete his driving tasks, his wife will die and he will be a widower.
Directed by Courtney Soloman, who decided to come out of hiding after the double whammy of 2000's "Dungeons & Dragons" and 2005's "An American Haunting," and written by Gregg Maxwell Parker and Sean Finegan, the film may get in and out at ninety minutes flat, but the loony vehicular wreckage that ensues is so repetitive and monotonously drawn-out that it becomes an ordeal to watch. To be fair, "Getaway" sports a to-the-point setup that gains a modicum of interest. Too bad it doesn't take long to realize that the Eurotrash Bad Guy's plans are pea-brained, rudimentary, and arbitrary, and by default, so is the movie. When your Eurotrash Bad Guy tells the protagonist to "crash into everything you can," drive onto a skating rink full of people, and then crash into a water truck, it seals the deal that nothing makes sense and none of this can be taken seriously. Every police cruiser goes flying in mid-air, only to crash (one fuzz actually letting out the Wilhelm scream). Also, when the police finally have Brent and his whiny passenger blocked, he pretends that he will shoot her, so what do the authorities do? They don't shoot the tires but let them go. Dumb. Just as pure enjoyment, the aforesaid absurdities sound much more fun than how they actually play out on screen. When all must come to a close, the "Phone Booth"-ish wrap-up is terminally unsatisfying, urging one to shrug and ask, "That's it?"
Arguably one of the most underrated actors of the '90s and still getting work since (especially this year with "Before Midnight" and "The Purge"), Hawke gets to do the grunt work, being given the badass name of "Brent Magna" and acting as a driving puppet, but he doesn't embarrass himself, either. After facing the controversy of Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers" earlier this year but fitting the material so well, Gomez is terribly miscast here as a security-system hacker with the savvy to re-route closed circuit camera footage on her iPad—let that sink in—and, worse, has to play "The Kid" as an annoying brat. Her performance is so one-note, unless one considers it a character arc when the twerp goes from saying "shit" a lot, petulantly telling Brent to "Slow down!" and "Pull over!" to screaming "Go Faster!" and being less stubborn and more helpful. Never have two actors struggled to keep our attention inside of a car with the worst banter since Charlie Sheen and Kristy Swanson in 1994's "The Chase." Finally, "The Voice" is played by Jon Voight's chin and mouth (confirmed by a last-minute reveal), which gets to drink coffee and a martini, shout "Shiza!" and open to show his yellow teeth.
For an auto-action picture that prides itself on using little to no CGI and actually crashing cars, excitement in most of the chases is rendered null and void, with energy being falsely manufactured through a million blinking, chopped-up cuts and a camera diagnosed with ADHD. Soloman's shooting style is so jarringly tight and incomprehensible, tempting anyone watching to get car sick. Continuity is so sloppy and glaringly absent that when the Super Snake's passenger rear-view mirror gets ripped off against a wall, it magically reappears in the next scene as if the car was fully loaded with regenerative powers. When an edit actually lasts longer than one sixtieth of a minute (and yet the cars zipping by were obviously digitally inserted), there is exactly one thrillingly novel break from the sameness—a continuous, minute-long take where the camera is mounted to the hood in pursuit of an SUV—that only underlines how the rest of the movie is inert and could've used some flair. The use of yuletide staple "Jingle Bells" even feels like wasted potential to create another violent, Christmas-set actioner like "Die Hard," "Batman Returns," "The Long Kiss Goodnight," or "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang." Leave this clunker in the dust and visit a Crash Test Dummies site instead.
Grade: C -