Former race car driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) comes home to find his house is a mess, there is blood on the floor, and his wife is missing. An anonymous phone caller (Jon Voight) orders Brent to hop into a custom, armour-plated Shelby Super Snake Mustang to run a series of high-speed errands, risking life and limb and evading local police in Sofia, Bulgaria along the way. When a gun-toting teenager (Selena Gomez) unwisely tries to car-jack Brent she finds herself unwittingly drawn into a breakneck adventure and a race against time to save his wife.
After career-boosting roles in low-budget genre films Sinister (2012) and The Purge (2013), Ethan Hawke signed up for this fast-paced action thriller. While those earlier hits were produced by Jason Blum, who co-founded Hawke's theatre company before going on to become something of a horror movie mogul, Getaway marked a rare non-supernatural outing from Dark Castle, the production outfit co-founded by action movie king Joel Silver and director Robert Zemeckis. Also involved behind the scenes were After Dark Films, producers of numerous DTV horror films under the aegis of director Courtney Solomon who spent a long time trying to live down his atrocious feature debut with Dungeons & Dragons (2000). If nothing else, Getaway proves lean, efficient B-movies are alive and (relatively) well in modern Hollywood.
Seemingly intended as a throwback to the taut car fetishist thrillers of the Seventies, Getaway lifts its title from Sam Peckinpah's seminal couple-on-the-run classic The Getaway (1972) and shares a minimalist approach to characterization in common with cult favourite The Driver (1978). At heart though it is more a non-stop chase movie and the protagonists even steal a trick from the most celebrated example of the sub-genre: Speed (1994). Critics laughed the plot off the screen, with one going so far as to describe it as “Cannonball Run for the YouTube generation”, yet for what it is the film is well executed, self-aware with a handful of amusing sight gags and certainly watchable. Viewers are unlikely to be left bored which is the one cardinal sin an action movie should never commit.
Things appropriately get off to a running start as Solomon dispenses with the set-up in all of two minutes before getting Brent behind the wheel forced to smash through a crowded Christmas market and outrun the Bulgarian police. Staged by the legendary Remy Julienne the car chases are shot and edited into a whiplash inducing high-speed blur as Solomon makes use of multiple vantage points, surveillance cameras and film formats. Which might be what younger filmgoers have come to expect in the wake of The Fast & the Furious franchise though some come away with headaches. Grizzled, gravel voiced Ethan Hawke tries his utmost to channel the laconic cool of a Seventies hero while former tween idol Selena Gomez is undeniably miscast as a foul-mouthed street punk whose endless griping and whining are unlikely to endear her to the audience. Nevertheless the script, co-written by Sean Finegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker, gradually unveils her character as quick-witted, resourceful and armed with a set of useful talents including, as is inevitable with teenagers in such films, computer wizardry. Gradually, Gomez rises to the role of a hi-tech Nancy Drew second guessing the villains and grows more watchable.
Some unnecessary scenes with Brent's wife (Rebecca Budig) suffering in captivity and villains sneering over their laptops disrupt the momentum but for the most part Solomon keeps the action coming and maintains a furious pace throwing bigger and bigger obstacles in his heroes' way. Credibility is strained as it appears Jon Voight (doing another of his crazy European accents) can control the entire city with his computer but while the film is frequently silly it is still somewhat satisfying. Plus one could concoct a decent drinking game based on the amount of times Gomez says “asshole.”