In Getaway, Ethan Hawke plays Brent Magna, a former NASCAR driver who bailed from the pro circuit and dabbled in some shady dealings before going straight. He’s settled down in a new country with his new wife, but when he comes home from work one day, he discovers she’s been taken. His phone rings and a mysterious voice tells him to steal a Shelby Cobra parked in a nearby garage or his wife will die. So begins one of the worst car chase movies I’ve ever seen, and unquestionably one of the worst films of 2013.
You’ll know this film is bad from the opening scene, which awkwardly reconstructs Magna’s wife’s kidnapping with black and white flashbacks as he arrives back at his now-empty house. It’s just a matter of how bad it’ll be, and while there’s always some promise that films like this can be handled with some flair, director Courtney Solomon (Dungeons & Dragons) botches the execution. He never gives us a sufficient reason to care about the plight of our lead characters, and – even worse – if you’re just there to see cars smash into each other, even that gets boring after a while.
There are only so many ways you can film a car that are visually interesting, and it’s clear the filmmakers ran out of ideas about 15 minutes in and just recycled the same bits of action in various locations. There are many ways this film serves as an example for how not to make a movie, and sticking ten GoPro cameras on the outside of a car and just letting them run for hours is one of them. That strategy will certainly give you a lot of footage to work with, but here it feels like a tactic used by a hack director with no clear vision. I lost track of how many times the editors cut to a static shot of a camera on the side of the street as a police car wildly flipped up and crashed into it. Of course, there are also the requisite explosions needed to punctuate the film’s trailer and draw audiences into watching this pile of crap, and as you might expect, they’re all laughable: at one point, Hawke’s car bumps a gun-toting baddie on a motorcycle into a gas station on top of a train platform, somehow detonating the entire thing.
Gomez’s terrible performance doesn’t do the film any favors; she’s on screen for almost the whole runtime and fails to evoke any emotion from the audience other than extreme annoyance. Her character – whose name we never learn, but it really doesn’t matter anyway – says the word “shit” about 30 times over the course of 90 minutes, even proclaiming Magna to be “the shittiest driver [she’s] ever seen” immediately after he’s pulled some insane stunt to avoid capture. That line just plain doesn’t make sense within the context of the story, but there are a lot of things about this movie that don’t make sense. Did I mention she’s a tech whiz who uses an iPad to remotely hack into anything she wants? Yeah, that’s the kind of movie this is.
Hawke, who’s been a great string of films over the past few years (he’s especially terrific in Before Midnight and Sinister), totally phones it in here. His character is so poorly written and he’s so surrounded by total incompetence that it’s hard to fault the actor in this situation. An especially preposterous dialogue scene between he and Gomez doles out exposition about his past as a driver: he got out of the pro circuit because he kept crashing cars, he says. But 45 seconds later, he also says “it was the only thing [he] was ever good at.” So which is it? If you care about things like character or story, Getaway is just plain insulting.
Jon Voight plays the mastermind responsible for putting Magna in such a tough spot, but we actually only see his entire face one or two times. Mostly we just see close-ups of his mouth from every conceivable angle as he demands Magna follow his often-nonsensical instructions. His character constantly contradicts himself; in one scene, he orders Magna to shoot Gomez, and when Magna refuses, Voight just smiles and says, “Good. You’ll need her.” Why would he ask him to shoot her if she has a major part to play in helping Voight get what he wants? My favorite line in the film was when Voight barks at Magna to drive through a crowded public square (the film is set around Christmastime, by the way, making it one of the worst Christmas movies ever made), and as the driver complies, Voight commands him to “smash into as many things as possible!” As he crashes through merchant stands and tables of gifts, I wondered for a brief second if the film was making a statement against the culture of materialism. Then the second passed, and I realized this movie is completely idiotic and incapable of being “about” anything.
The entire production feels like a low-budget made for TV movie, even down to the costumes; it’s as if the producers realized they secured enough funding to make their movie, arrived in Bulgaria where the movie is set (for reasons that presumably consist of it being really cheap to film there), and sent a production assistant to the Bulgarian equivalent of K-Mart with $200 and told him to buy the coolest looking clothes he could find for the actors to wear. Hawke chews on a toothpick for a second in the film but then ditches it, seemingly aware that the film he’s in is so bad that it doesn’t deserve to pay homage to toothpick-chewing cinematic icons like Clint Eastwood or Chow Yun-Fat.
If watching a Jon Voight playing a real world game of Grand Theft Auto with Ethan Hawke as his avatar sounds appealing, Getaway will give you what you’re looking for. But if you’re hoping for inventive car chases, a villain with a coherent plan, entertaining performances, or a movie that actually has some style to it, don’t pull over for this one. Until next time…
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