Car chases have long been a staple of Hollywood, from a Model-T zooming along at 30 miles per hour, to the enormous spectacles of today. Just earlier this year, the sixth installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise, a series of films based on little more than watching cars go fast, made almost $700 million worldwide. A car chase, when executed well, is exciting, suspenseful, exhilarating, and is as much an integral part of cinema as a damsel in distress or a bad guy with a mustache. However, what the hundreds of movies featuring car chases do differently than Getaway is both elementary and crucial to the quality of the film — the characters actually get out of the car. Of course the flaws of this film go far beyond the lack of things like walking around, but it all stems from the fact that our hero is little more than an upper body behind the wheel of a cool car.
The premise of Getaway is a familiar one — bad guys from a criminal past kidnap a hero’s wife, forcing him to do “one last job” in order to rescue her. There’s even the clever young sidekick in a terribly miscast, and rather annoying, Selena Gomez. All of the ingredients are there for a nice, familiar action flick. Sure the lapses in logic are a bit more numerous than even the most vapid of popcorn movie, but we can let that slide when the rip-roaring action takes us on a fun ride. However, that fun ride never comes. Instead we go on a manic ride of millisecond-long cuts and an apparent aspiration to outdo the destruction of the car chase sequence in Blues Brothers. The safety of the heroes is quickly removed from our concern, as their seemingly invincible car repeatedly smashes into every truck, police car, and other obstacle they can find. There is no visual coherence, no suspense, no logic, and no chemistry to be found anywhere, leaving us with nothing more than two crash test dummies behind the wheel of a very nice, very fast car.
Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of Getaway is that of the villain, played by Jon Voight, credited as simply “The Voice.” With a generic Eastern European bad guy voice, he acts less as a villain, and more as the surrogate voice of the utter misguidance of the film. Communicating with lead Ethan Hawke and his plucky sidekick through the car’s Bluetooth, Voight doesn’t provide any sort of menace or moral conflict, he simply tells Hawke where to turn in order to cause the coolest looking car crash. In perhaps the most ridiculous sequence in the film (there are several contenders), Voight barks commands like “ram into that truck full of water bottles” and “drive onto that ice rink” in what sounds like a 6-year-old describing what he’s pretending his Hot Wheels are doing on the living room floor.
Getaway may not have set out to be ambitious, but it at least seemed to have a handful of sure-fire crowd-pleasing staples of Hollywood. But just like the countless cars in the film, these staples were smashed beyond recognition with an impressive lifelessness. Shot on location in Sofia, Bulgaria, even the beautiful location is laid to waste by rampant cuts and an astounding prevalence of low resolution shots from car-mounted cameras. I would say that Getaway never gets out of first gear, but a more fitting analogy would be a 16-year-old who can’t figure out how to start a car with a clutch. Steer clear of this one.
My Rating: 0.5 Stars