Getaway

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Warner Bros. Pictures
Rated PG-13 for intense action, violence and mayhem throughout, some rude gestures, and language.
Running time: 90 minutes.
One and a half stars out of four.

The Summer of Ethan Hawke ends in batshit-crazy fashion with “Getaway,” an over-the-top car chase movie that drives all night but never really goes anywhere.

Following the emotional honesty of “Before Midnight” and the lurid thrills of “The Purge,” Hawke’s latest is a piece of noisy, Euro B-movie trash. That’s called range, baby.

“Getaway” might have been enjoyable as a mindless bit of dumb, late-summer entertainment if it had been vaguely coherent. The mere fact that Hawke’s character is named Brent Magna would seem to bode well. Instead, it’s an overly edited mish-mosh from a million different camera angles — scattered, manic, unfocused — which makes it not only difficult to tell what’s happening quite often but also difficult to care.

Does director Courtney Solomon really think we’re incapable of looking at a single image for more than a few seconds at a time? Rather than upping the intensity, this Cuisinart-style editing approach actually achieves the opposite effect: It’s numbing and distancing.

The only enjoyment to be found in “Getaway” is from laughing at the ridiculousness of its premise and the stilted banter that so frequently constitutes its dialogue. Brent comes home to his apartment in Sofia, Bulgaria — why he and Selena Gomez’s character live there is explained, eventually — to find that his wife has been kidnapped. Adding insult to injury, the bad guys snatched her while she was decorating the Christmas tree, listening to carols and enjoying a glass of red wine. Is nothing sacred?

Brent receives orders from a disembodied but obviously menacing voice (Jon Voight, credited as The Voice, appropriately enough) to go to a specific parking garage and steal a specific car: a custom Ford Shelby GT500 Super Snake. Turns out, Brent is a washed-up racecar driver; in theory, he should know what to do with this muscular machine. What he’s asked to do with it, however, is ludicrous: The Voice gives him a series of impossible tasks that could result in massive destruction and carnage. If he fails to accomplish them, his wife will die. And The Voice knows whether Brent is following through because he’s watching his every move and listening to his every word through the cameras and microphones that have been placed both inside and outside the car.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Brent also must contend with the saucy, whiny teenage girl who jumps into the passenger seat and puts a gun to his head. She’s played by Gomez in a hoodie and a sneer; any leaps she made from her squeaky-clean Disney Channel image toward more challenging, mature material with “Spring Breakers” might have been obliterated entirely here. Then again, the script from Sean Finnegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker doesn’t think much of her character, naming her only The Kid and saddling her with laughable techno jargon to spout.

Turns out, the car belongs to The Kid. But not only is she a serious gearhead, she’s also a brilliant computer expert. She can simply hack into the city’s police server with some video she shoots on her phone and a few taps on the tablet she keeps in the glove compartment. (The people who stole the car and tricked it out with all that gadgetry didn’t think to look there?) Gomez’s presence constitutes the most implausible casting choice you’ll see all year, and it smacks of a cynical attempt to make “Getaway” appeal to young audiences.

Now the two of them are stuck in the car together — you see, the wife dies if The Kid bails, too — carrying out these increasingly dangerous and deadly tasks. They talk openly in their efforts to outsmart the film’s villain, which seems silly and counterproductive given that he can hear everything they’re saying.

As they drive all night wreaking havoc, in their wake is an untold number of police cars that get tangled and mangled trying to track them down. Much has been made of the fact that these are actual cars being crashed, and not just the result of CGI blippery. Truly, there should be some sort of counter in the bottom corner of the screen to allow us to keep track of the destruction. But given the way these chases and collisions are shot and edited, any efforts to achieve authenticity are wasted.

Hawke remains weathered and weary throughout; driving and driven, he doesn’t get much to work with beyond a singular note of desperation. And once Brent finds out exactly why he of all people was chosen for this elaborate escapade, it’s a wonder he doesn’t cry out in incredulous wonder — just as audiences will when it’s time for the big reveal.

 

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