August 30, 2013

Getaway

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A movie review by James Berardinelli



Getaway

ACTION:

United States/Bulgaria, 2013

U.S. Release Date:

2013-08-30

Running Length:

1:30

MPAA Classification:

PG-13 (Violence, Profanity)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

2.35:1

Cast:

Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, Rebecca Budig, Jon Voight

Director:

Courtney Solomon

Screenplay:

Sean Finegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker

Cinematography:

Yaron Levy

Music:

Justin Caine Burnett

U.S. Distributor:

Warner Brothers

Subtitles:

none


Getaway is pretty much a 90-minute car chase. That's it. It may rival The Blues Brothers for the most vehicular wreckage in a motion picture. (Is that still the gold standard or has it been surpassed?) That said, however, consider how easy it is for a five-minute car chase to grow boring if the director doesn't bring something interesting to the proceedings. Now multiply that by 18. Getaway starts out with some flair, getting its backstory across economically through quick flashbacks. Ethan Hawke is in the car before the opening credits are done and he stays there until we get to the end credits. (Okay, he gets out briefly once or twice in between.)

The "high energy" approach of director Courtney Solomon (the man who brought Dungeons & Dragons to the screen!) quickly becomes monotonous. There are about five shots that Solomon uses repeatedly. There's nothing notable or interesting about the locations of the chases - the majority of them are through crowded city streets or on less crowded freeways. There's a lot of swerving, ramming, and causing other vehicles to crash into one another. All of this stuff is generic material that was common in the '80s and '90s. Earlier this summer, I complained about the physics-defying highway activity in Fast & Furious 6, but that at least had an element of invention that's completely absent here.

The narrative exists exclusively to justify the chase. It's unnecessarily convoluted and, when considered with any degree of intelligence, makes no sense whatsoever. A former race car driver, Brett Magna (Hawke), has been "recruited" by a faceless mastermind (Jon Voight) to accomplish a variety of nefarious missions in order to save his kidnapped wife (Rebecca Budig). Along the way, Brett is carjacked (sort of) by a young woman (Selena Gomez), who ends up in the car with him for the duration. They argue for a while before some bonding starts. The screenwriter spent as little time on dialogue and character interaction as he did on narrative. This isn't about all that stuff. It's about a car going really fast while eluding other cars (mostly police). And this goes on... and on...and on.

As long as Ethan Hawke continues to make movies with Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater, I'll forgive him cash-grabs like this and The Purge. I realize that he, like all of us, has bills to pay. I guess this is intended to be the next step in Selena Gomez's evolution as an actress but it's not a positive one. Okay, she says "shit" a lot, which I suppose is intended to position her in a more "adult" mode (Disney princesses don't use profanity, after all), but her acting is about as one-note as her expression. Since she showed promise in Spring Breakers, however, it may be a case of a performance that fits the material. Jon Voight gets a bargain since, for the most part, his face is off-camera, meaning he can claim it wasn't really him.

I suspect even those who get a charge out of the most generic of car chases may find that Getaway offers too much of a good thing. The movie includes about 60 seconds of near-brilliance, when the perspective suddenly goes into point-of-view mode. For that glorious minute, there are no (obvious) cuts and things actually get exciting as we're placed on the front grille while the car zips through red lights, speeds around corners, and weaves through traffic. One could argue that the inclusion of this sequence is a very bad idea because it italicizes how pedestrian the rest of the movie is. While I'm sure Getaway could have benefitted from a better screenplay, what it really lacks is variety. The experience-killer isn't the stupidity of the script, the poor performance by Gomez, or the idiocy of the dialogue. It's the sheer boredom of watching a neverending chase that lacks the slightest element of invention. Getaway isn't action; it's inertia.

Getaway is a classic Labor Day weekend movie, meaning that the studio has minimal expectations for its box office performance and it doesn't demand that viewers pay even rudimentary attention to what's on-screen. You can take a 45-minute nap and not miss anything. In fact, the trailer is an excellent encapsulation of the film - better to watch that and skip a trip to the theater, since the only thing you'll get for your $10 is a bigger picture and a lot more of the same.

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