There’s a brief scene during the final throes of Getaway that is both thrilling to watch and impressive on a technical level. It’s a single-take POV, running roughly ninety seconds or so, of a car chasing another vehicle through early morning traffic. Neither dialogue nor film score distracts from the visual ride as the only sounds are the revving engine, the shifting gears, and an occasional squealing of brakes. The two cars weave at high speeds around morning commuters, narrowly avoiding collisions as they race through intersections, and for a minute and a half your eyes are glued to the screen enjoying a heart-racing few moments of beautiful simplicity.
It’s not unusual for a film to save its highlight for the finale, but what makes this instance memorable is that it’s quite literally the only worthwhile scene in the entire movie.
The improbably named Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) is driving a heavily modified and recently stolen Ford Shelby Super Snake in a bit of a hurry. He’s not exactly sure where he’s headed, but he most assuredly knows why. His wife has been Taken kidnapped from their apartment in Sofia, Bulgaria, and now Magna has to follow the instructions of a voice on the car’s dashboard phone if he wants to get her back in one piece. The gravelly-voiced lady napper, a man whose mouth we see in close-up as he handles business from a night club, directs Magna in eluding police and damaging public property with no apparent goal in mind. Things change when a bobble-headed teen (Selena Gomez) tries to carjack Magna only to unwittingly become a part of the voice’s mysterious plans.
Director Courtney Solomon drops viewers right into the action with a series of quick cuts, Foley artist shenanigans, and flashbacks to the voice telling Magna what’s what, and no more than a minute or two later the concerned husband is in his first of many chase scenes with the local police. An ex-Nascar driver, Magna eludes the fuzz fairly easily, but it sets a pattern that will repeat multiple times throughout the film. Poorly-edited chase scenes are interrupted by brief dialogue exchanges and flashbacks to show us how happy his wife was before she was kidnapped, and then it’s time for another poorly-edited chase.
There’s quite a bit of action here as dozens upon dozens of cars are smashed, crashed and otherwise put out of commission, but only the scene mentioned at the top escapes with anything resembling style, clarity and a sense of real thrills. Part of the problem is the machine-gun editing that refuses to keep a shot longer than a second or two, but just as culpable are the numerous car-mounted cameras. Ostensibly for the man behind the voice to keep an eye on Magna’s activities, they’re actually intended as a way to present the vehicular action from numerous exciting perspectives. Unfortunately Solomon’s response to a plethora of options is to use them all as often and as quickly as possible.
The action quickly dulls to a collage of spinning wheels, indistinguishable police car destruction, and Hawke’s stand-in’s feet working the car’s clutch. It’s utterly lacking in style and excitement, and the only change in rhythm comes with the arrival of Gomez’ hooded carjacker known only as The Kid. The unimpressive action and poor dialogue is now forced to take turns with forced “plot” development, senseless bickering, and unnecessary exclamations of “Shit! Damn! Hell! Drive faster!” Apparently paid by the word, Gomez infuses her never-ending word bubbles with all the emotion and gravitas of a tweet declaring her disdain of pumpkin-flavored lattes.
It will surprise no one, but the character elements fail across the board here, too. We have no sense of who Magna is, and no matter how many memories we see of his wife in happier times we simply don’t care about her. The Kid and The Voice fare no better with neither actor managing to find anything resembling chemistry with Hawke. His performance isn’t doing anyone any favors here either, but his ongoing descent into low budget/no budget genre films (after Sinister, The Purge, and the horror classic Before Midnight) continues to fascinate.
Getaway is an action movie devoid of worthwhile action. Any points earned by its devotion to practical effects are immediately lost due to our inability to see and enjoy them. There are laughs here, with the last thirty minutes in particular earning multiple chuckles (I even teared up a couple times from laughing), but they’re earned unintentionally by a script that shows no signs of awareness as to how real people talk in dangerous, stressful situations. Don’t just get away from Getaway… stay away. Maybe go watch Ronin instead.
The Upside: A single 90 second shot; unintentionally funny
The Downside: Laughable script; car action is terribly edited; Selena Gomez shows no evidence of acting ability
On the Side: The single take shot mentioned at the start of the review was accomplished illegally on live roads with actual civilians driving around.