Film Review – Getaway
Some movies you can just tell by everything about them that they were thought up in an executive board meeting. Everything from the premise, to the director and casting, through the script to the execution, you can just see it all being brainstormed by people sitting around a table and wondering how they too can cash in on something monetarily phenomenal. In this case, that phenomenon is several things: the Fast & Furious franchise, Drive, and America’s love of car films. In that way, Getaway is nothing more than a literal exploitation film. By combining the elements of so many other things that were successful, Warner Brothers and producer Joel Silver and co. hope to also cash in; and by throwing Selena Gomez into the mix, they’re displaying their hope for a younger audience draw as well.
A purely derivative and exploitative film can be amazing; those are the kinds of movies that have come to be known as Grindhouse flicks. Getaway is not one of those movies. The sum of its parts is a blatant attempt to suck up to audiences by providing them elements of things they already proclaimed love to, and by doing so, everything about this movie is short-changed in favor of iconography. The story revolves around Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke), an ex-race car driver who comes home one day to find his girlfriend Leanne (Rebecca Budig) has been kidnapped, and in order to get her back he needs to do exactly as a voice on a phone tells him, which is drive a car really fast and crash into everything. The plot is ripe for the airing of past grievances, double crosses, and shocking revelations, but instead turns out to be what you’ll probably guess it is after a few minutes, and that’s not much.
The movie opens with a montage sequence that introduces us to the premise in less than five minutes, and looks like it was shot as the introduction to a T.V. show. When Hawke first utters a word, he sounds like he hasn’t swallowed in days and subsequently is trying to do his best Batman audition. The camera never stays still, cutting every three to five seconds and sometimes back and forth between juxtapositions of the same shots. The close-ups and odd camera angles, coupled with the short cuts, come out to a complete lack of geographical association; the whole movie could take place in the same room and up and down the same stretch of road for all we know. Film scholar Matthias Stork has a theory about film called Chaos Cinema, in which he describes modern action films as being void of the rules of spatial continuity that are typically adhered to when making a movie. And here we have a prime example.
The whole movie’s purpose is to make the audience think it is being wowed, from the monetary exploitation, to the story, to the way the movie is presented. The cinematography and the editing are designed to work as an afterthought. With the camera angles being tight and the editing quick and choppy, the viewer is cut off from anything extraneous, like the world outside of the edges of the frame. By doing this, the filmmakers are able to present the action, which is all this movie is, as reactions. When Magna is being chased by cops for driving through a crowded park and destroying an outdoor shopping bazaar, all we see is shaky shots of cars, Magna jerking the wheel, and a car flipping over while crashing into something. We aren’t privy to the thrill of the chase; the build-up to the crash is never given. And because of that, the movie is never exciting, thrilling, or tense. It simply is. To illustrate further, when the camera finally does take a moment to calm down, it’s to give the audience the best shot and sequence of the film. As Magna chases down a car, the movie cuts to a single take from a camera planted on the very front of the car. The shot is quiet and the zigzagging in and out of traffic feels very real, but what feels like a build-up to something shocking and spectacular leads to nothing but a cutaway to the rest of the chase that ends in them simply stopping.
Then there’s Selena Gomez. Gomez plays a character simply credited as The Kid. In fact, if one was to look at the rest of the characters’ names, it would reveal that about only two people have actual names in the movie. Like Drive before it, this wants to be esoteric and clever; Hawke even broods continuously like he’s tormented by existential deliberations beyond the rescuing of his girlfriend, like the realization he’s in this movie. But unlike Drive, this falls flat and comes off as trite and silly. A part of that has to do with Gomez, who talks too fast and tries to come off as too smart to be acceptable as anything but an eye-rolling nuisance. It all feels like part of the executive board meeting: “Let’s get a sidekick in there, maybe a pop star, someone the kids will love.”
If things don’t sound bad enough at this point, the movie’s biggest atrocity might just be in its smug self-assuredness that this is just the beginning; there’s more story to be told. It reeks of Fast & Furious-itus. The film’s villain is supposedly shrouded in secrecy and left for a final moment reveal that seems to be designed for two reasons. One, it wants you to say the actor’s name out loud when you see them, which is what happened during the screening I attended. A name choired out in unison. The second thing is that there’s now a mystery created by introducing the villain right before cutting to black, which, unless it’s a revelation of a character we’ve met earlier, is designed as set-up for more to come. If it’s anything like this, it might be better and more satisfying to just rent and watch one of the aforementioned films this one wants to be, instead.