Monday, September 2, 2013


Everybody gets taken for a ride in “Dungeons & Dragons” director Courtney Solomon’s “Getaway” (** OUT OF ****), co-starring Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, and Jon Voight.  Spectacularly staged car chases and slam-bang stunts cannot compensate for the scarcity of suspense and dearth of characterization in this low-octane vehicular evasion thriller.  Undoubtedly, whether they would admit it or not, Solomon and freshman scribes Sean Finegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker drew inspiration for their cinematic demolition derby from cult 1970s era automotive epics such as “Vanishing Point” and “Gone in 60 Seconds” as well as the recent trilogy of “Transporter” films.  Other movies swirled into the soup for the derivative “Getaway” are abduction opuses like “The Chase,” “Taken 2” and “Ransom.”  The speeding cars in “Getaway” are more interesting than the shallow characters.  Oscar nominated lead Ethan Hawke spends most of his screen time ensconced behind the wheel of an armored, 2008, Ford Shelby GT500 Super Snake Mustang.  Eventually, Gomez joins Hawke, but these two conjure up nothing in the way of camaraderie.  Oscar winner Jon Voight appears primarily in dermatological close-ups of his mouth and eyes as an anonymous villain reminiscent of James Bond’s arch nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld.  Voight spends virtually all his time on the phone droning on interminably with an ersatz Teutonic accent.  Occasionally, actors are ridiculed for giving performances with all the spontaneity of a telephone conversation, but this is precisely what Voight does.  He gives our hero his marching orders.  None of these characters, however, possess a shred of sympathy.  The cast does little to enliven them with either traits or memorable lines of dialogue.  Meantime, Ryan Dufrene’s Cuisinart editing; the CGI-free car and motorcycle crashes, and an amoral ending which provides an excuse for a sequel make the implausible “Getaway” palatable.  Although it coined less than five million dollars at the box office during its opening weekend, “Getaway” could still break even.  Warner Brothers produced it for $18 million.  The southeastern European city of Sofia, Bulgaria, served as the setting, and the film producers got more bang for their budget because production costs are far less expensive. 

Essentially, “Getaway” amounts to little more than a tire-screeching Shelby Mustang advertisement.  Our protagonist, Brent Magna (a mustached Ethan Hawke of “Training Day”), is a former professional NASCAR driver who burned out on the circuit.  A gang of mysterious villains abduct Brent’s wife, Leanne (Rebecca Budig of “Batman Forever”), at Christmas and compel him to hijack a customized Mustang and then drive it wherever they say.  No, Brent doesn’t know these thugs, but he knows Leanne’s life hangs in the balance.  The entire film occurs at between dusk and dawn. At one point, the Voice (Jon Voight of “Heat”) orders Brent to careen through a crowded public skating rink.  Although our hero inflicts considerable damage to the premises, he doesn’t kill anybody like the homicidal Venice Beach maniac did not long ago.  Once he has trashed the area and stampeded the pedestrians, Brent receives orders to haul ass elsewhere.  Repeatedly, the Voice warns Brent if he doesn’t comply with his instructions that Leanne will die.  Along the way, our beleaguered protagonist encounters the Mustang’s owner, cherub-faced Selena Gomez, and this improbable pair collaborate to save Brent’s kidnapped wife.  The Gomez character doesn’t have name.  Officially, she is referred to during the end credits simply as ‘the Kid.’  She abhors the array of wireless, digital cameras that the villains have attached to her automobile, and her relationship with Brent gets off on the wrong foot.  The moment she jumps into the Shelby, the Kid brandishes a gun and tries to oust Brent from the vehicle.  The Voice knows everything that Brent and the Kid are doing because those cameras as well as a GPS keep tabs on them.  When our heroes aren’t trying to outwit the Voice, they have their hands full evading the local authorities.  Of course, Brent doesn’t have much trouble eluding those small Bulgarian police cars, but he faces greater challenges when the Voice dispatches cars and motorcycles driven by henchmen armed with bazookas and sub-machine guns.  The Voice plans to rob an investment bank where money is stashed in the form of computer files. 

Everything in “Getaway” has been meticulously scripted.  Brent serves as the hare who draws the hounds away from the Voice’s actual objective.  Later, we learn the Voice has admired Brent from afar and is giving the ex-NASCAR driver a chance to prove that he is still a top-notch driver.  Brent as well as the army of stunt car drivers displays some fearless, gear-grinding maneuvers.  The Kid isn’t just as kid.  She is a computer whiz with a tote bag of electronics gadgets, including a tablet.  She relies on her technical skills to thwart the constant surveillance that the cameras provide the Voice so he will always know their whereabouts.  As it turns out, the Kid’s father runs the bank where the millions that the Voice wants are stored.  “Getaway” is like a modular narrative.  Everything serves a purpose, but none of it is remotely credible.  Indeed, the filmmakers shun subtlety in favor of speed.  Ironically, despite all the mayhem both real and imagined, this 90-minute, PG-13-rated nonsense doesn’t have enough tread to be gripping.  Occasionally, something cool happens.  The henchmen at an intersection with a bazooka aimed at Brent get the surprise of the lives just as we do when the Voice pulls off his own amazing stunt. 

The cars and the stunt drivers qualify as the real stars of “Getaway.”  Presumably, Solomon and his 21 producers sought to make the stunts as genuine as possible because the script is a superficial, damsel-in-distress, crime thriller with one-dimensional characters.  The filmmakers smashed up 130 cars, and seven Shelby Mustangs were built specifically for the film.  Unfortunately, despite all the fascinating, behind-the-scenes, automotive trivia, “Getaway” runs out of gas long before its happy ending.  Stay away from “Getaway!”