Getaway

By about the third time I had seen the same scene play out in Getaway, the premise of “let’s watch a four-minute car chase” had almost worn thin. Unfortunately, we were about 13 minutes into the movie. I estimate 13 because there are minute-long scenes of dialogue in which characters spout exposition and other things that some people occasionally think need to be in a movie in order for it to remain a coherent experience. Despite these “breaks,” Getaway barely makes sense and has nothing in respect to competent filmmaking. It is a film which briefly made me want to stop watching movies for good.

Getaway stars Ethan Hawke as a man who used to be a former professional race car driver and therefore is qualified to lead an action movie. The name doesn’t matter, although I’ll note that, of the three leading actors, his character at least does have a name; I just didn’t care enough to remember it, and it’s only said a couple of times near the beginning, anyway. His wife has been taken, and now he finds himself behind the wheel of a souped-up Shelby Mustang, listening to a voice on the in-car speaker (Jon Voight, reminding us of the accent he put on in Anaconda) tell him a series of tasks he needs to accomplish in order to rescue her.

He is soon joined by Selena Gomez, playing a character without a mentioned name, who is actually the owner of the car. The voice says to keep her around, so the two of them have to perform the series of tasks together. Essentially, she functions in two ways: (1) screaming out random, pointless, oft-repeated phrases during the car chases and (2) expository statements when the film requires us to know something. We never need to know anything that happens.

The film is a poorly edited jumble of car chases, car crashes, and “drama,” if you can call it that. If the film has nothing else, it’s a lot of energy. The editing is rapidly paced, with only a couple of seconds maximum between almost every single shot in the picture, and because the camera is almost always photographing action, there’s the inherent thrill of the chase propelling us forward. Or, at least, that was the hope.

In reality, it plays out differently. The quick-cutting ensures that we never actually see a whole lot of anything, and it also prevents us from having a sense of time or place. The constant barrage of car chases quickly grows tiresome, especially once we learn that the screenplay does absolutely nothing creative with them after round #3. There are, by my estimate, around 20 separate car chases in this film, but after you see them couple of times, they grow tiresome.

When there’s nothing apart from car chases supporting an already shaky foundation, your movie is going to collapse. In this case, it does so in spectacular fashion. The ways in which this film fails — essentially any way you look at it, it is a complete disaster — means that it might wind up as a midnight cult film someday. I could see ironically enthused audiences lining up around the block in order to see Getaway on the big screen for the sole purpose of laughing with others who detest it as much as they do.

Because I’m in a lovely mood, I’m going to say one nice thing about Getaway. There’s one lengthy tracking shot involving one car following another at relatively high speeds that is actually quite nice. It lasts for maybe two minutes, and appeared to be quite the risky bit of filmmaking, with cars zooming by in every which direction. That single shot was nice. If there was a purpose to it, or if it built up to something, it would have been better. But at least one person on this film had one good idea at one point in time — he or she just couldn’t get the rest of the movie to follow suit.

The plot is nonsense and even its interesting elements are ignored in favor of more car chases, with some scenes making absolutely no logical sense. The dialogue is written as if it was for a 1996 video game — and delivered as laughably — the cinematography can’t even get the car shots right, the editing makes everything even less coherent than it probably read in the script, and there isn’t even an ounce of self-awareness or humor until more than an hour in, at which point anyone watching this is going to feel dead inside.

It also has the added bonus of having one of the most annoying movie characters I can think of. Selena Gomez is probably not a terrible actor, but here she spouts the same few lines during each of the car chases, and none of them have any purpose. During the “drama,” here character has no sense of consistency, switching back and forth between respecting and hating Hawke’s character. And while it’s kind of funny at first to see her cursing up a storm (PG-13 cursing, anyway), that grows tiresome far earlier for us than it does for the filmmakers.

I felt defeated by Getaway. It doesn’t deserve as many words as I just wrote about it, and it absolutely doesn’t earn the 90 minutes it will be playing on many screens all across the world. It is abysmal in every sense of the word, and it has the magical ability to drain the energy of those watching it. There is one single shot in this film that works, and it stands out so much because of how dreadful the rest of the picture is. Get. Away.

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