Local review: ‘Getaway’ misfires with characters and its story

By Evan Bevins

The Marietta Times

ebevins@mariettatimes.com

The car chase movie gets a fresh coat of paint with “Getaway,” but what’s under the hood could use a boost.

Ethan Hawke (“The Purge”) stars as ex-race car driver Brent Magna, who we meet as he’s stealing a souped-up Shelby Super Snake Mustang, a sequence interspersed with scenes of his wife Leann (Rebecca Budig, “All My Children”) being abducted by thugs. A mysterious voice (Jon Voight, “Ray Donovan”) on the other end of his cell phone tells him he must follow instructions to the letter and perform a series of tasks if he wants to see his wife again.

Those instructions involve creating utter chaos and breaking every traffic law (I assume) in Bulgaria, where the film is set. At first, I wondered if the villain was setting up some sort of elaborate psychological game, but it quickly became apparent he was more traditionally heist-oriented.

A wrinkle comes in the form of Selena Gomez (“Hotel Transylvania”) who bursts onto the scene looking like the most Disney-certified adorable carjacker ever. She’s actually the owner of the car, which restores a little credibility.

Hawke is a bit of a counterintuitive choice for the lead, which works in the movie’s favor as he brings a palpable world-weariness and gives the impression that he really is in over his head. Granted that takes a hit when he shoots a guy off a speeding motorcycle, but he mostly does not come across as a standard, take-on-all-comers action hero.

Gomez, listed in the credits simply as “the Kid,” fills the requisite wisecracking sidekick role and, thankfully, no romantic sparks fly. Some of the dialogue between the two is rather clunky (Kid: I really, really hate you. Magna: (pause) I can understand that).

But the point of this movie is the car chases, of which there are many. “Getaway” keeps virtually all of the action in the car, avoiding the elevator/subway bookends of “Speed” and the shirt-removing-martial-arts sequences of “The Transporter.”

That would have worked fine if not for the frenetic cuts that make it hard to figure out which car you’re seeing. Magna’s vehicle is outfitted with cameras inside and out to let the villain see what’s happening. It also allows director Courtney Solomon (“An American Haunting”) to vary the views with the two main characters in a car for much of the film. One chase sequence is particularly gripping, with Magna’s bumper cam following a car in what appears to be one uninterrupted shot of near-miss crashes. However, car’s-eye-view footage is used from multiple vehicles, so sometimes you can’t tell who wrecked until they cut back to show which cars are still rolling.

The crashes are the main source of violence in the film, sort of like a “Dukes of Hazzard” episode on steroids. There isn’t a lot of blood, but at least some of the dialogue acknowledges the potential for the drivers to be really hurt, even if none of that is shown. The language isn’t squeaky clean, but it’s not exceedingly vulgar and seems suitable for the film’s PG-13 rating.

If you notice I keeping referencing other films or shows when describing the vehicular action, that’s because “Getaway” calls a lot of them to mind but never really reaches their level. It’s a movie that will likely have a good run on FX and other channels on the weekends and one I probably wouldn’t mind having on in the background if I happened upon it while channel-surfing. But it’s also not particularly memorable, despite some good efforts from the filmmakers.