Though always speeding forward in some gear of ridiculousness, Getaway is a lot more fun when it’s completely nonsensical, before its baddie’s motives and harebrained plot are funnel-fed to the viewer. In a manic pre-credits sequence that foreshadows the formal mayhem to come, ex-racer Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) is shown stealing a Shelby Mustang from a parking garage after an anonymous villain kidnaps his wife, Leanne (Rebecca Budig). At the whim of a man who says he’ll kill Leanne if his orders aren’t followed, and at the wheel of a car that’s armored and equipped with all manner of surveillance equipment, Brent becomes his enemy’s desperate puppet of chaos, wreaking citywide havoc per demands that come from a hands-free phone built into the car’s dash. With campy glee, the tormentor credited only as “The Voice” (Jon Voight) remotely instructs Brent to “Go faster!” and “Smash into everything you can!” with no initial apparent motive but to fuck with Brent’s head. It’s all so deliriously dumb, making Getaway an unintentional hoot long before Brent is held at gunpoint by a car-jacking teen played by Selena Gomez.
Directed by Dungeons & Dragons helmer Courtney Solomon, and written by Sean Finegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker, this is the sort of movie so subservient to plot schematics that when The Voice tells Brent he has three seconds to kill Gomez’s character, known only as “The Kid,” and Brent insists that he can’t, The Voice replies with, “Well, good—you’ll need her.” However absurd, the line is no exaggeration, as The Kid, now forced to ride shotgun, turns out to be a wee Lisbeth Salander with squeezable cheeks, her anti-cheerleader traits including a whiz-bang computer savvy that’s as helpful for Brent as it is for the filmmakers’ deluge of tech-heavy exposition. And as it happens, the tricked-out Mustang belongs to The Kid, which is, of course, no accident, and allows for the injection of elementary-school feminism. (“Yeah, I’m a girl who likes cars and computers,” she tells Brent. “It’s 2012, man.”)
Aside from standing as proof that it’s a bread-and-roses year for the Spring Breakers starlet and Before Midnight’s Hawke, Getaway clearly marks phase two of the on-screen image-hardening of Gomez, who’s tasked with spouting a dozen expletives in her first few scenes. More than anything, though, the film highlights the young actress as someone with fledgling chops, in dire need of a better director. Such is a need that’s evident in every facet of Getaway, which is both an assemblage of pieces that are flat-out robbed from other actioners (a little Speed here, a little Phone Booth there), and a chase film so hideously and frantically constructed that it leaves the audience at an alarming disconnect.
In the movie’s production notes and online featurettes, Solomon and company brag about wrecking some 130 vehicles during production, and employing countless remote, security-type cameras, not only on the blessed Shelby GT500 Super Snake (for which Getaway is basically a 90-minute ad), but all over the city streets. Thus, the aesthetic is a busy mélange overrun with cashier-counter-grade footage and jump cuts, the latter making The Bourne Ultimatum look lazy. Suspension of disbelief is strongly required from the get-go, particularly in regard to Brent’s implausible evading of police, but any visceral sense of reality is terminated by the horrendous technique, which, despite an apparent lack of CGI, never allows a second of palpable urgency to set in. Apart from one unbroken, climactic take that ultimately serves no purpose, every interminable sequence involves cutting from a face to a car exterior to a pursuer in a way that could suggest each element was filmed on a different continent. It’s fun to see things get smashed up real good, but not when it feels as fake, frivolous, and disorienting as playing with Matchbox cars after someone’s spun you in circles.