A five-minute car chase in a movie can be exciting, but “Getaway” proves that a ninety-minute one is positively deadly. Though it’s directed by Courtney Solomon, the picture is so completely idiotic that you might swear it was made by Luc Besson and starred Jason Statham or Liam Neeson.
It’s the first film Solomon has made since “An American Haunting” back in 2005, and one can only assume that it was desperation after so long a hiatus that led him to embrace such a moronic script, which comes across as a brainless melding of “Taken 2” and “Drive.” Ethan Hawke, looking understandably morose and offering little in the way of actual acting, stars as Brent Magna, an erstwhile racing pro who left the track behind for emotional reasons. Now ensconced in Sofia, Bulgaria (a cheap shooting venue), he’s forced by a master villain called only The Voice (played by Jon Voight, in close-ups that reveal only the lower half of his face, with yellowing teeth and much stubble in need of a razor) to steal a muscle car from a parking lot and follow the directions he’ll get over the its phone system, all of which demand very skillful driving. His cooperation is assured because The Voice’s minions have kidnapped his wife Leanne (Rebecca Budig) and are threatening to kill her if he doesn’t play ball.
Magna is joined in his seemingly endless high-speed, destructive round of Sofia streets, sidewalks and other locales, pursued by police, by a young American girl (Selena Gomez) identified in the credits only as The Kid. She owns the car, and has been told by somebody claiming to be a policeman where she can find it; so she shows up with a gun to demand its return, only to wind up after a spate of bickering as Magna’s helpmate. Luckily she also turns out to be a technical wiz who can help him transform the cameras and other gizmos The Voice has installed in the car into useful tools. But she’s also one of the most irritating, obnoxious teens seen on screen in years—which is saying an awful lot—and one of the script’s many disappointments is that when ordered by The Voice to shoot her, Magna refuses. But her blithe mention of the fact that her father is the CEO of a big Bulgarian bank should telegraph even to the densest viewer what The Voice’s intentions are.
There really aren’t many more elements to the movie. It’s all a blinding whirl of the car rushing through boulevards, alleys, pedestrian walkways and parks as cop cars try to follow and inevitably wind up crashing and burning. (You might have thought that Neeson decimated the Istanbul fleet of police cars in “Taken 2,” but he was an absolute piker compared to what Hawke does to Sofia’s.) There’s a change-up in the final reels, where the Shelby—the car Magna’s driving—is pursued by gun-wielding motorcyclists instead. For this movie, the switch in vehicles is as big a plot twist as you get. The car, of course, plows on largely unharmed through explosions, massive gunfire and other assorted disasters, until it finally stalls when—you guessed it—it just happens to be in the sights of a bazooka being aimed by one of The Voice’s henchmen. What a coincidence!
The non-stop action of “Getaway”—all accompanied by a score from Justin Burnett that’s so loud and propulsive that it nearly drowns out the engine noise—is supposed to be engrossing but soon gets very boring indeed, and your mind begins to wander to questions about the morality of engaging in conduct that must involve hundreds of deaths and injuries in order to save a single person, or whether the Bulgarian government is so hard-up for cash that it happily welcomes a project that depicts it as a haven of international money-laundering (a point that also apples to Hawke’s acceptance of such a clichéd role). And when at the close the motive behind The Voice’s nefarious scheme turns out to be something more than merely monetary, you’ll find it hard to suppress a derisive guffaw.
The picture closes with Voight, finally seen in full-face as The Voice as though his presence was supposed to be a surprise, telling Hawke’s Magna, “It’s been entertaining.” Fat chance, buddy.