Like an overcooked meal slathered in sauce in an attempt to mask its deficiencies, Getaway is an action movie gussied up with every editing trick in the book in an attempt to distract you from how profoundly stupid it is. Right from the outset, as the movie breathlessly establishes its minimal premise wherein failed race car driver Brett Magna (Ethan Hawke) comes home to discover his wife has been kidnapped and he’s tasked with stealing a tricked-out Shelby Super Snake outfitted with cameras both inside and out and made to perform increasingly dangerous tasks if he wishes to see her again, the movie tries to dazzle us as the past and present merge in a wild editing bacchanalia that refuses to let up until the film’s final five minutes. This style has proven fruitful in the past (the unrelentingly bonkers Crank and its equally nutty sequel are the La règle du jeu of this genre), but Getaway lacks the transgressive spirit and sense of escalation of those films, instead showing off the verve and panache of a pair of bedazzled dad jeans.
I must admit that the baser, more simian portion of my brain is engaged whenever a movie puts on a display of practical vehicular mayhem and the brief moments here where the crash-cutting settles down enough for my occipital lobe to register what’s taking place as one of approximately 25,000 Bulgarian squad cars are annihilated provide minor jolts. But I’ve developed beyond simple reasoning, which safely takes me out of Getaway’s target audience. There’s a small chance this film could’ve proven tolerable if we just followed Ethan Hawke through Die Hard: Bulgarian Drift, but the film introduces a rogue element in Selena Gomez’s “The Kid” as Magna’s mismatched partner in hijinx throughout the night, a chemistry experiment gone terribly awry. From the insane bit of tortured logic that brings her into the film (she’s a computer-savvy, street-smart pistol-packing urchin whose car just so happens to be the one Hawke just stole) to the endless parade of expletives and teenaged sass that she provides as our ostensibly ‘comic’ relief, her performance is destined for the Razzies.
Director Courtney Solomon (whose previous directing efforts are An American Haunting and Dungeons and Dragons) really does seem to be trying to engage with a modern audience with his filmmaking here. How does a mid-budget action picture stand out in age of visceral video games and readily accessible YouTube clips of dash-cam pileups? Solomon tries to join them (the film is a video game essentially, Grand Theft Auto picked up from a save point where you already had three stars) when he really should’ve focused on beating them. It’s only when the film settles itself down for a minute-and-a-half long unbroken shot of our Super Snake protagonist (let’s be charitable and call it an homage to the superior 1976 Claude Lelouche short Rendezvous) engaged in a high-speed chase on Bulgarian city streets that the film finally engages on the visceral level it intends to. And this brief moment of stillness (from the cameras, not the subjects) is followed by the most ludicrous denouement of the summer.
Firstly, the car chase ends with the pursued forcibly ejecting Selena Gomez from the passenger’s side as though instructed the end credits were about to roll. Then, the disembodied voice reveals the reasoning behind his plan. This villain has already established a penchant for excessively flamboyant plan-making like a deranged fan of lateral thinking puzzles, so believe me when I say the logic behind why he chose Ethan Hawke’s character for this assignment is next-level absurd. Then the film plays the reveal of the disembodied voice to be Jon Voight as though it carries any cultural currency at all with its intended audience (“Oh hey, it’s that guy from Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2!”). But these sublimely stupid final minutes are far too little, too late. In a summer of stupid action pictures, Getaway is a reverse-MENSA exercise in trying to pare down the genre to its base elements. I look forward to its eventual sequel: Drive Fast Smashy Crash.