“Moderation in all things,” cautioned the ancient Roman dramatist Terence, who obviously didn’t have anything to do with this smoking backfire of a modern movie.
There’s nothing in moderation about “Getaway,” which is basically one long, over-the-top, pedal-to-the-metal car chase. It’s the movie equivalent of reading a letter from someone who types everything in all caps and ends each sentence with a handful of exclamation points.
In what passes for a plot, Ethan Hawke plays a disgraced race driver blackmailed into stealing an extremely tricked-out Shelby GT500 Super Snake and driving like hell through a town in Bulgaria with a young woman (former Disney star Selena Gomez) riding shotgun.
If he doesn’t get to where he’s supposed to go and do exactly what he’s told to do, something very bad will happen to his kidnapped wife.
Hawke’s character receives his driving instructions from a mystery man (Jon Voight) with a smarmy accent coming from the car’s hi-tech dashboard phone.
The mystery man has set things up so the passenger – a spoiled little rich girl with mad computer skills and a rich banker daddy, as fate would have it – would come along at just the right moment to become a part of his plan.
And he’s rigged the car with cameras, inside and out, so he can see what’s going on from every conceivable angle. That actually makes the wildly implausible story seem like it makes more sense than it does.
Onscreen, it’s a gear-grinding fireball of a mess, so full of preposterous plot holes that it’s a miracle its muscle-car star can maneuver anywhere around them.
The movie is so focused on revving its engine, in fact, it lets story details and everything else slide.
It certainly doesn’t have time to waste on its characters. Only Hawke’s has a proper full name, and it’s a testosterone-oozing doozie with names like Brent Mangra and The Kid. While Voight is known only as The Voice, who isn’t seen, until the very end of the movie.
When the credits roll, with the exception of Mangra’s wife and her first name, everyone else is a henchman, thug or driver.
And I don’t understand how shooting a guy on a motorcycle makes a whole train depot explode. And why couldn’t Voight just talk in his regular voice?
At some point, certainly, somebody must have understood more about this movie that I did, including director Courtney Solomon, who obviously thought it was cool to make a movie that relied so heavily on footage shot from mounted cameras in places too impractical or too dangerous to put a human operator.
There is, however, one very cool sequence late in the film from the perspective of the front of the Super Snake, as it pursues another vehicle, maneuvering, braking, speeding up and slowing down through intersections and around other cars and trucks. It’s as simple as that, and it only lasts about 60 seconds. But it’s so strikingly different from anything else in the movie, and yet so much more thrilling, it made me wonder if it was shot and edited by another film crew entirely.
But after a while, it all becomes exhausting, a big clotted clog of fumes and dust and grit, inane dialogue, ridiculous plotting, and bent, twisted metal.
When “Getaway” was over, not only did I feel like I’d been dragged along for every mangling mile, I was grateful to be able to crawl away from the wreckage. I only hope Hawke, Gomez, Voight and the director can too.