STARRING Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez, Getaway has to be the most surprising cinema release of 2013 – not because it defies any film conventions, but, rather, because it repeats them to the point of complete absurdity.
The story is quickly established: it is Christmas time and Brent Magna (Hawke), a gruff ex-racing car driver who is down on his luck, returns home to find his house ransacked and his wife missing.
A mysterious caller (Jon Voight, credited as “The Voice”) commands him to steal a Mustang car, and then tells him to follow all instructions – failure to do so means Mrs Magna will die.
Selena Gomez (credited as “The Kid”), a petulant rich girl who owns the Mustang, tries to steal it back from Magna and ends up being dragged along as an unwilling passenger for the film, which for the most part, is composed of connected car chases.
The Voice remains a mystery to both the on-screen characters and the viewer. We are only treated to close shots of his lips curling into a cruel smile, greedily gulping some slick cocktail, or mercilessly devouring olives as he torments Magna in a vaguely Germanic drawl; no doubt calling from the untraceable number in the VIP section of one of those high-class and decadent clubs that villains frequent …
Magna has absolutely no character development, he remains trapped in a state of perpetual anxiety, and each reckless request that The Voice makes is met with the briefest of resistance before he proceeds to careen the car down steps, through train stations, and across ice rinks in an attempt to keep his wife alive.
The Kid eventually uses some of her computer knowledge to try to figure out what the master plan is.
Cue some more filler chase scenes, a turning-point scene where they briefly step out of the car before getting back in it, and a climactic chase scene.
So much focus is given to metal-on-metal crashing that the only empathy a cinema audience could have with the characters on screen stems from the shared experience of being trapped in a seat while forced to endure something terrible.
There seems to be little CGI used, which is noteworthy, but the elements of the chases that are impressive are drowned out by the sheer inanity of watching so much action that, more often than not, is very clunky.
The webcams mounted inside the car by The Voice are spliced into the movie as in-car shots, which is a novel editing approach that completely fails.
Hawke and Gomez seem powerless to do anything with the script.
Undoubtedly, there’s an audience for every film, but this one will struggle in the cinema – even if you’re hungry for a mindless, fun action movie, there’re so many that already do the job better that I’m not sure the traditional “leave your brain at the door” approach would have any beneficial effect.
Getaway is one step beyond that – the title needs to be read as a warning.