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Review: GETAWAY Speeds and Skids

by on August 30, 2013

Do you remember that Clive Owen movie Shoot ‘Em Up? Basically, he’s just a guy who happens upon some criminal stuff and he just so happens to be excellent at shooting guns so, bada-bing, bada-boom, he spends the next 80 minutes firing millions of bullets. Courtney Solomon’s Getaway is that, with car chases instead of gunfire and any ounce of satire removed. It’s a very earnest, very serious action movie, with some incredibly impressive stunt sequences, where the heroes are literally in a car 95% of the time.

In Getaway, Ethan Hawke plays Brent Magna, a former race car driver living in Sofia, Bulgaria, with his wife. He comes home on Christmas to find her kidnapped and his house in shambles. He then gets a call from a mysterious voice (it’s Jon Voight, you guys) who tells Magna that he has to go steal a specific car, a super-charged Mustang Shelby, and perform whatever random acts of car-related carnage he’s told to or his wife will die. That’s the first five minutes, and from then on, it’s off to the races – the narrow-streets-of-Bulgaria races. The voice is monitoring everything with the series of cameras he has mounted all over the car, outside and in, and they communicate via the car’s built-in telephone.

Our hero’s escapades immediately draw the attention of the local police, who give chase. Again, if Magna gets caught or doesn’t complete his tasks, it’s Dead Wife City. Soon, a young girl (Selena Gomez) attempts to carjack him. The voice says to kill her, and when Magna refuses, he’s told that she must come along too. We quickly discover that the car was Gomez’s to begin with and that the voice is up to something stranger and more nefarious than anyone first thought.

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That might even be more of a description of the plot than is necessary. It’s a movie about car chases and, almost more appropriately, car crashes. How and why Magna has to get his wife back is secondary to the fact that ZOOM! CRASH! VROOM! is going on around it. The story itself is preposterous. How on Earth could Jon Voight have fitted this car so perfectly with video devices (that never come off, no matter how hard Magna runs into stuff, by the way) in the time between it being stolen and Selena Gomez calling it in? He also, apparently, has access to the entire CCTV system in Sofia, from a single laptop, no less. Where are the servers, yo?!?!

He’s not the only computer genius in there, either. Selena Gomez’s character, who’s credited as “The Girl,” is somehow able to hack into the system the voice is using to control the car, in five minutes, with an iPAD! What?! How does that happen? At one point in the theater, I literally threw my hands up and said, “I just don’t know anymore.” Ludicrousness upon ludicrousness.

However, the story is not why you watch a movie like this, and the action is first rate and top notch. The notion of having cameras built into the car as part of the story works incredibly well on the filmmaking side of things as well, as we’re able to get as close to the action as humanly possible. We feel the speed of the collisions with every pulse-pounding second. There’s nothing quite like the throaty V8 of a Mustang careening down the road while European BMW police cars chase it. The editing is fast-paced and it’s never boring, even if it’s continuous.

Ethan Hawke should be in more action movies. He looks right at home behind the wheel of a fast car and firing a pistol out the window of said auto. In fact, you know what? He should be in all the action movies. I’ve always been a huge Ethan Hawke fan and he’s, somehow, able to make us care about this silly premise of him attempting to retrieve his living, female MacGuffin. You get good actors in action movies, and they’re probably the better for it. He’s even able to be convincing opposite Gomez, who is badly out of her depth. I appreciate that she’s trying to change up her image, hence her earlier appearance in Spring Breakers, but it doesn’t seem to me like she’s even in the same movie.

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If you’re in the mood for excellent car chases and crashes and explosions and stuff, Getaway is the movie for you. Solomon does a great job with the stunt direction; I just wish it were attached to a better story. And, while it works in theory, it is boring after awhile to just see the main characters in a car the whole time. While I would certainly not classify it as a “good” movie, it’s not un-entertaining. Impressively ridiculous is what I’d say, and that’s not the worst thing to be.

Read our interview with Getaway director Courtney Solomon by clicking here.