Racing games don’t really need stories. One of my favorite games, Burnout 3, has absolutely no story whatsoever. You race, you smash things up, and it’s fun. You feel in control of the action. Courtney Solomon‘s Getaway takes the controller out of your hands to watch a crushingly dull excuse for a movie where you watch hollow characters spout wooden dialogue so you can see the same chase scenes over and over again with the quickly tiresome novelty of strapping a bunch of low-resolution cameras inside and outside the car. The stupidity of the characters and the plot occasionally becomes so bad its good, but the repetitive, joyless set pieces simply make us want to open the door, tuck and roll, and get the hell out.
Former race car driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) is coerced into following the whims of a mysterious voice (Paul Freeman) who has kidnapped Magna’s wife (Rebecca Budig) and threatens to kill her if his newfound errand boy doesn’t do what he’s told. The voice gives Magna a souped-up Shelby Mustang Super Snake for the purpose of causing vehicular mayhem in Sofia, Bulgaria in order to achieve an unknown final objective. The tasks quickly become more of a headache when “The Kid” (Selena Gomez) tries to hijack Magna to get her car back, but the mysterious voice forces the snotty teenager to come along for the ride.
The movie clumsily panders to its audience from start to finish. It’s all about car chases, and Solomon only has one way to shoot them. The Voice has strapped cameras to the outside of the car so he can monitor Magna, but it’s really so that Solomon doesn’t have to hold a driving shot for more than five seconds. There’s really no rhyme or reason to the cutting between car cameras and real cameras beyond what Solomon probably thought was the best shot. He’s usually wrong because he’s shooting for speed and crashes instead of geography and pacing. This approach makes almost every chase scene look pretty much the same. The objectives may change such as adding a countdown clock or running from guys on motorbikes, but mostly its Magna and The Kid fleeing from cops and destroying almost every police car in Bulgaria. You could get up during one of the chase scenes, go grab a snack at the concession stand, come back and not have missed a thing.
There’s also no one at the wheel when it comes to putting any effort into the characters. Hawke and Gomez have absolutely no chemistry, which is somewhat understand able because they have no characters. They’re just as mechanical as the car they’re in. The movie slams on the brakes for perfunctory exposition where The Kid is always having insights into the villain’s plans, and Hawke is whining about his wife. Hawke dons a gritty, gravel voice, and Gomez talks tough through her baby face while she uses a magic iPad that can completely disrupt the plans of a guy who can run his scheme through the government’s police servers and use cameras that hardly ever lose a signal no matter how badly Magna damages the vehicle. As for the baddie, Solomon refuses to show his full face as if this is supposed to make him more sinister, but really it makes me never want to see a close up of that actor’s mouth ever again. It also serves a pathetic reveal at the end so the audience can recognize an actor, which is something you do for comedies, not action-thrillers.
For Courtney, the car chases are all that matters. Unfortunately, the car chases are a mess, and everything else is downhill from there. When smashing up cars and driving through crowds somehow has no punch, all we can do is notice the flaws in a desperate attempt to stay awake even though the movie is only 85 minutes. We notice that Sofia’s (presumably) volunteer police department is awful at setting up roadblocks since they always forget to close up the side street Magna can zip down any time. There’s also the movie’s one long driving shot which is—I kid you not—following a van. Not a van that’s driving fast or rocketing around corners. We’ve gone from tedious car chases to tedious car following. The van drives slowly in a straight line since the movie is running on fumes at this point. But our patience was exhausted 70 minutes ago, and Getaway can’t end fast enough.