Getaway is one of the most bizarre films of the summer, and also one of the worst. This film operates like Phone Booth in a Mustang, with a mysterious Voice (Jon Voight) manipulating former race car driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) into performing errands for him by kidnapping his wife (Rebecca Budig). Along the way he meets The Kid (Selena Gomez), a privileged girl who only has traits that service the plot functionality.
The sheer idiocy of the plot I could forgive were the film fun to watch. But especially given the amount of practical effects involved, Getaway is unbearable. While I credit director Courtney Simpson trying to be innovative in the way this film was shot (the main car has cameras installed all over it as a plot point), the way the film is edited together is a big problem. Roughly 75% of the film is chase sequences, and those are told via quick cuts from every possible angle attached to the car or immediately in front of it. This is exacerbated by the rhythm of the editing. Many of the cuts are so quick it feels like there are multiple shots in a single second. Any dramatic images derived from these real cars slamming into each other, fishtailing, and driving down stairs are neutered by jumping too quickly for the audience to get a sense of what they are seeing.
Since all the shots are tight, the effect becomes claustrophobic, with the film never giving you a sense of where the car is going or what obstacles are oncoming. Despite being (mostly) shot on location in Sofia, Bulgaria, you never get a sense of the city. There was no restraint in editing here, and with what I am sure is thousands of hours of footage distilled into an hour and a half, it is an exhausting experience. I’m not denying it is an interesting way to make a movie, but Solomon never gives us the time to enjoy it, since our eyeballs are merely trying to keep up. I would love to see some of the raw footage re-edited into something less disorienting.
The script feels B-level, and no one here save Voight turns in a stellar performance. Hawke never makes Magna come alive, so he remains one-dimensional, and Gomez’ performance never elevates her character above plot mechanic. But if the film’s copious chase sequences were comprehensible, I might not have cared.
Getaway features the most breathtaking action sequence of the entire summer. Near the end of the film, there is a one-take, 95-second single shot from the front bumper perspective of a car chase that is simply astounding. After the claustrophobic close camerawork that makes up the majority of the film, being on the front bumper of a Mustang charging into the Bulgarian dawn was a breath of fresh air. Reinforced by the authenticity of the real cars (no CG) used throughout the film, even slightly speedramped, the shot is wonderful, showcasing brave stunt work and near misses with unsuspecting Bulgarians. It’s absolutely fantastic, and I wish the rest of the film’s editing had a similar approach.
I will say that one shot almost makes Getaway worth seeing in the theater. Almost. But I can’t bear recommending paying a full price admission when the rest of the film is bad to the point of being uncomfortable to watch. Maybe it’s proof that just because you can mount cheap cameras to the side of a car doesn’t mean you should jump between all of them inside of a few seconds. Or maybe Getaway is just a crazy, reckless bad movie with one experiment that paid off immensely.
Getaway opens today in Philly area theaters.