“Before I have to hit him, I hope he has the sense to run”: Dan Lybarger on Getaway

August 30, 2013

Grade: 72
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, Jon Voight, Rebecca Budig
Director: Courtney Solomon
Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense action, violence and mayhem throughout, some rude gestures, and language
Running Time: 90 minutes

By Dan Lybarger for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and blood, dirt& angels

Director Courtney Solomon (Dungeons & Dragons, An American Haunting) is a lot like his protagonist Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke). He knows he has to deliver lots of speed and mayhem or he’s going to fail. On both counts, Solomon provides ample satisfaction. It’s too bad he can’t seem to make viewers regret occasionally thinking about what unfolds or give the audience much of a reason to care about why things are exploding.

Solomon’s Getaway begins with the frightened Brent tearing through the streets of Sofia, Bulgaria, as if letting his footoff the gas might kill him or that hitting the brakes might pull a calf muscle.

Actually, a faceless guy known only as “The Voice” (no, he’s not in Brent’s head) is ordering Brent to drive from one point of the city to another, knocking down barriers or stray objects that get in his path. Brent has to take orders from this unseen tormentor (Jon Voight), or he will order his thugs to kill Brent’s wife, Leanne (Rebecca Budig).

Brent’s mission becomes infinitely more complicated when an American teen known as “The Kid” tries and fails to carjack the sweet ride that Brent has tearing through Sofia.

Actually, she (Selena Gomez) owns the car and is simply trying to take it back, and Brent needs her computer and mechanical skills to outwit The Voice.

As Getaway progresses, it’s tempting to wonder if fictional NASCAR legend Ricky Bobby (of Talladega Nights fame) was the actual screenwriter. Everyone in Sofia speaks perfect, American-accented English except for Voight, who tries to sound vaguely “European.” None of the cops in the city can drive more than a few yards without flipping their police cruisers. After a few dozen roll over like bowling pins, there’s little point in getting excited over the chases.

Some of the bad guys use automatic weapons, but they’re not much of a threat because their aim is worse than that of the storm troopers in Star Wars. One wonders if European criminals need to wear more corrective lenses. Furthermore, because only Brent has a name and none of the characters have anything resembling personalities, it gets a little dull when things aren’t blowing up.

Sofia is an attractive city, and car chases seem a good deal tenser when they take place on narrow, cobblestone streets that were never intended for motor traffic. The film might have been even better if the filmmakers had really played up the city instead of simply trying to pass it off as a generic town for Gomez and Hawke to crash through. The finale, which looks like it was shot from a dash cam, gives viewers a sense of adrenaline and danger that’s missing from the rest of the film.

The ending indicates that there’s room for a sequel. Should Warner Bros. declare it necessary, could they just bring back the amazing car and skip the not-so-interesting people?

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