Brent Magna (Ethan Hawk) is a man whose wife (Rebecca Budig) has suddenly and inexplicably been forcibly misplaced. When a voice on the phone (Jon Voight) threatens to kill her unless he does exactly what he’s told, he complies. Given no choice, he follows the voice’s increasingly outrageous instructions, beginning with stealing a high end custom car. By the way, Brent happens to be a washed up race car driver who apparently took a turn at being wheels for hire at some earlier point in his life.
Things are going as smoothly as one can expect, to start with, until he’s carjacked by a kid with a gun (Selena Gomez). Turns out it was her car he stole, and now she’s along for the ride whether either of them likes it or not.
From the very first moment, you know you’re in for…something. The movie starts out with an overtly dramatic beat of music as a very dramatic scene unfolds, Brent coming home to find his Christmas tree battered, ornaments shattered, and wife missing. If those weren’t enough clues that something is amiss – and his slowly moving, non-panicked demeanor, suggests that they weren’t – there’s blood on the floor, and he gets a menacing and impeccably timed phone call. Yep, something is amiss.
We’re in for a ride as the film, and the protagonist, jump right into a car to carry out the voice’s instructions. We aren’t even given time to see the opening scene through – that’s left up to weirdly redundant flashbacks to finish telling us what happened. The camera work here is also something else. After we finish with the flashbacks the cinematographer showers us with close up shots that make Les Miserables look like it was filmed with a wide angle lens. It’s not long, though, before he gets tired of the closeups and switches to full on ADHD mode.
The car (an armored Shelby) that Hawke and the audience spend 99% of the rest of the film inside is conveniently equipped with cameras galore, inside and out. It’s so, you know, Jon Voight’s character knows what Magna’s up to, but really it’s just an excuse to squeeze in as many odd camera angles as possible. We flash through so many quick cuts from each and every one of these cameras that it’s impossible to keep track of. It would be almost fascinating if it wasn’t so dizzying.
Character development has the depth of something you’d find in a video game – one of those random ones that no one has played before and has no real story but tries to make one in order to make whatever random thing you’re doing have a purpose. The whole movie, in fact, has a very video game feel to it. I immediately thought of Need for Speed, which is getting a big screen adaptation next year. Someone else pointed out a similarity to the mission-based Grand Theft Auto. Either way, the plot is very simplistic and full of Hollywood contrivances – such as Selena Gomez’s character (who I don’t think ever gets a name) being able to instantly hack a sophisticated camera network with her iPad. Sure.
Where it lacks in plot, Getaway tries to make up for with driving. Lots and lots of very fast driving with lots and lots of car crashes. I mentioned that 99% of the film takes place in the car. I don’t think I’m exaggerating. Instead of being a tense single location, bad guy on the phone, film like Phone Booth, Getaway just gets monotonous. At first it seems to be trying to be somewhat realistic – at least compared to something like the Fast and Furious franchise, but soon it gives up that endeavor as well. We’re left with an empty movie filled with nothing but driving in circles, fast.
Despite being a pretty terrible movie, I somehow didn’t come away absolutely hating it, and there are some scenes – especially a long take near the end – where the camera work is actually pretty interesting and the car chases slightly thrilling. But even where things work, they feel more like a tech demo than a coherent movie. And that ending – we can’t forget the ending that leaves you with a “really, that’s what they’re going with? If you want a feature length car chase with no plot, check it out when it comes out on Netflix streaming – it won’t be long.
Mrs. Hamster did not attend this screening
My Rating: Two out of Five Hats
Getaway drives people away from 2,130 theaters, August 30