‘Getaway’: The screeching tires grow tiresome
“Getaway” may star Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez, but the car in this relentless action thriller — a Shelby GT500 Super Snake — should get equal billing. Hawke portrays Brent Magna, a former racecar driver who spends nearly the entire film racing this powerful built-to-order Mustang through the streets of Sofia, Bulgaria, on a wild goose chase to save his kidnapped wife.
There’s no real buildup; the action starts right out of the gate. It’s Christmas, and Magna comes home to find an apartment in disarray and blood on the floor. His cell phone rings and he meets the Voice (Jon Voight) who instructs him to go to a certain parking garage and steal “the best car there.” He’ll know it when he sees it.
Once in the car and on the run (Sofia police cruisers are destroyed one by one), he’s at the mercy of the unseen assailant who has a complex and rather brilliant scheme to make himself rich, and Magna’s driving skills are at its center.
The Voice, an enigma who is some sort of Eastern European mobster (it’s never explained), gives Magna directions — through parks, skating rinks and busy shop-lined streets (and sidewalks). If he performs each required task in a given amount of time, he’ll be reunited with his wife (Rebecca Budig); cameras mounted in the car allow the Voice to watch his every move. Desperate, Magna at first isn’t sure he can follow the orders, and then his eyes fill with fierce determination and the destruction mounts.
Into this heart-pounding, hectic mess comes a petulant, tech-savvy girl who just happens to be the owner of the car. With a gun pointed at Magna’s head, it’s a meet-cute of a different kind. The odd couple can barely tolerate each other, but in order to survive the longest night of their lives they learn to work together as every cop in the city pursues them.
The racing is spectacular especially when you consider director Courtney Solomon’s claim that no computer-generated imagery was used in the crash scenes (130 cars were wrecked and there were no injuries). Solomon said he wanted to put the audience in the middle of events and inside the car; he certainly does pull that off. Believe me, your head will spin. After a while it all becomes mind-numbing.
Hawke has had an interesting run lately with the critically acclaimed “Before Midnight” and the science fiction thriller “The Purge.” Now he’s stepping into Liam Neeson action territory. But “The Getaway” doesn’t give Hawke much to do but grimace behind the wheel. He is a fine actor and he does what he can with the role, yet he doesn’t come near reaching the single-minded intensity that Neeson brings to the brand.
Gomez simply seems out of her league. You have to give her props for trying to move beyond her Disney image (see “Spring Breakers”) but there’s no way she’s believable as this car owner identified only as the Kid. Part of this problem lies with the screenwriters, who could have given the character more of an edge rather than making her simply a petulant rich kid.
And it’s wishful thinking, but wouldn’t it be nice to know more about Magna and his racing world fall from grace, which forced the couple to move to Europe in an attempt to start over? It’s a compelling, underdeveloped story line in a movie that’s one long chase scene.
“Getaway” ends on an open-ended note leaving the possibility of a sequel. So it’s a sure bet that if the film is a success, Hawke will be back behind the wheel before long, driving another hot car and trying to outsmart the Voice.
Mary Houlihan is a local freelance writer.