Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review: "Getaway"

The car in "Getaway" may be tricked out like a rolling Christmas tree, but the story is stripped down to shiny metal and bare essentials. A desperate man, in a car, on the run -- that's all there is to it.

A B-movie thriller with A-list crashes and stunts, "Getaway" doesn't have aspirations beyond a few scares and some good fun. That it delivers, though it's best to shift your brain into neutral to make things go faster. Even at a lean 90 minutes, the pacing is occasionally draggy.

Luckily, any time things get too talky and dull, more bad guys or police suddenly appear out of a side street to give chase, setting up another 10 minutes of roaring engines, grinding fenders and gravity-defying wipeouts.

Something like 90 percent of the action takes place inside the car, a smoking-hot Mustang Shelby GT500 Super Snake. (If you don't know cars: imagine a nuclear reactor on wheels.) Like other cinematic pony cars of yore ("Bullitt," "Gone in Sixty Seconds"), the 'Stang practically becomes a separate character in the movie, seeming to take on more attitude as it gets progressively beaten up.

The man at the wheel is Brent Magna, a former pro racer gone to seed. He's taken some jobs for some shady characters, but he and his wife (Rebecca Budig) have tried to put it behind them and relocated to Sofia, Bulgaria.

As played by Ethan Hawke, Brent resembles a wolf who's been starved too long and relishes getting back in the action. He returns to his apartment to find his wife kidnapped, and a mysterious voice on the phone (Jon Voight) calls him with instructions to steal a certain car.

Supercharged and armored, the Mustang makes mincemeat of the local constabulary. But the evil voice has installed video cameras all over the car so he can control Brent's every action, ordering him to follow instructions or see his wife killed.

At first the orders seem loony -- drive through a park full of people and deliberately smash up Christmas decorations. But gradually a method becomes clear, especially after Brent picks up a smart, mouthy kid (Selena Gomez) with a more than passing interest in his ride.

Rookie screenwriters Sean Finegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker have essentially put story elements from several other movies, notably "Speed," into a blender and cranked it up to high. The characters don't really emerge beyond their role in moving the plot ever forward, though we get some mumblings about Brent losing his nerve on the pro circuit.

Director Courtney Solomon ("An American Haunting") keeps things moving along pretty well, and his action-scene chops are rather good. He knows how to shoot car chases and stunts, and the editing is zippy and rhythmic.

Whenever the car slows down or stops, though, things quickly grow a little lazy, so a new chase is always just around the corner. This leads to the movie having a wash/rinse/repeat vibe.

No one will claim "Getaway" is a great piece of filmmaking. But it's a fleetingly entertaining chase picture that should satisfy your need for speed.

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