“Getaway,” the sports car smash-‘em-up that belly flopped at the box office this past weekend, does everything wrong – from its artlessly filmed car chases to Ethan Hawke’s tough guy rasp, which sounds like he’s about to complain about the lines at the post office. Director Courtney Solomon keeps upping the ante on stupidity, concluding with a useless reveal that serves as the moldy cherry atop this mountainous crap sundae.
Hawke plays Brent Magra, a disgraced racecar driver who has started fresh in Bulgaria with his wife, Leanne (soap opera vet Rebecca Budig). The transition to Target runs and laundry schedules is rudely interrupted when she is kidnapped. To get her back unharmed, Brent must follow the telephoned instructions of a man known only as the Voice (Jon Voight).
It starts with Brent stealing a renovated Shelby Cobra Mustang equipped with internal and external cameras so he can complete a series of tasks requiring the services of numerous stunt drivers. Brent’s job gets more complicated when he’s forced to take the car’s owner (Selena Gomez), a computer-savvy, tough-talking rich girl along for the ride.
Solomon’s goal, it seems, is to create a thrill-a-minute spectacle. I have no problem with that – if I could follow anything. Solomon’s go-to move is to use blink-quick shots, sometimes from different perspectives (for example, the car’s mounted cameras). So not only is the action indecipherable, it physically hurts to keep up with the epileptic jitteriness. Every frantic car chase – and there are a lot of them – looks exactly the same, except maybe a train is involved or a different set of terrified pedestrians flees for their lives. There’s a mechanical weight to “Getaway,” an unwillingness to embrace the humor or stupidity behind its turbo tendencies. It is surprisingly depressing: the audience I saw this with displayed all the enthusiasm of attending a Monday morning staff meeting.
Not even the characters, if you want to call them that, in “Getaway” have fun. Backgrounds, in this case computer geek and tortured stoic, do not make for characters. Nor does that create chemistry, a big part of keeping your movie from resembling a demolition derby. Gomez and the willowy, insecure Hawke, woefully miscast as a stony loner, have no chance. Hawke excels when he’s paired with an explosive talent – Julie Delpy, Denzel Washington – and Gomez lacks the seasoning to inflict her lines with humor or sexiness. She always sounds like she’s pissed that mom still hasn’t picked her up from school. Thanks to this movie and “Spring Breakers,” Gomez is further away from her hollow-eyed Disney darling days. Now she must learn that she can’t take edgy roles and magically become Michelle Williams.
Of course, “Getaway” finds other ways to drive us nuts. The once-respected Voight is here because, well, Solomon felt his movie needed an OK Werner Herzog impression? Gomez’s character fiddles with the car’s cameras or with her tablet – which appears out of nowhere – and there are no repercussions. And how did she track down Brent in the first place? Everything in “Getaway” is confusing or dumb or pointless, making it an ideal debut for Labor Day weekend, a time when studios and audiences would rather be outside.
-Read more of Pete’s cinematic musings on whatpeteswatching.blogspot.com or follow him on Twitter, @PeteCroatto.