If you go into the vehicular thriller Getaway with your expectations reasonably lowered, knowing that not all movies need air-tight plots or deep characters, and understanding that splashy car crashes can be their own excuse for mindless fun — you will still be astonished by how flat-out awful it is. A B-movie made out of F-grade parts, Getaway has some of the trappings of a charmingly crass, go-for-broke action pic like the delightful Crank. But it’s too dumb — and far too cynical about what audiences want — to even know how to have fun with them.
When his wife is held hostage, a former race car driver (Ethan Hawke) is told that his only chance for saving her is to get into a souped-up muscle car and follow the pointless, you’ve-gotta-be-kidding-me orders barked at him over the phone by a criminal mastermind (Jon Voight, doing a misguided Werner Herzog impression). ”Crash into everything you can!” ”Drive onto the skating rink!” ”Crash into the water truck!” It’s exactly what a 12-year-old might yell to a friend playing a video game, but the movie carries out its action with a straight-faced pseudo-intensity that starts your eyes rolling as fast as the car’s wheels. Even worse, Getaway operates in a humor-free zone where we’re never encouraged to belly laugh at the ridiculousness of, say, a hotrod speeding through a crowded European plaza without a single visible casualty. (For reasons known only to the filmmakers — and probably their accountants — this all takes place in Sofia, Bulgaria.)
Things only get less plausible from there when the car’s real owner, a teenage-looking hoodlum (Selena Gomez), tries to get her wheels back and ends up being dragged along for the ride. Of course, it turns out she’s a fellow American expat with a SoCal drawl. (Sure, why not?) And a genius-level computer whiz. (If you say so!) Who can perform advanced feats of instantaneous hacking with her iPad. (Kids these days, right?) All without breaking a sweat or smudging her thick slick of lip gloss. And throughout it all, there’s poor Ethan Hawke, his face sunken into a credible action-hero scowl that sometimes adds a faint, sad glimmer of authenticity to the Hot Wheels derby going on around him. Which only makes it worse when you catch him occasionally looking like he’s fully aware that his movie — like the car that he’s zooming around in — is going nowhere fast. D-