‘Getaway’ needs less Selena Gomez, more craziness

Selena Gomez (out of focus) and Ethan Hawke are trapped in a car in "Getaway." Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Selena Gomez (out of focus) and Ethan Hawke are trapped in a car in “Getaway.”
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

‘Getaway’
Director: Courtney Solomon
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez
Rating: PG-13
2 (out of 5) Globes

The lean, cheap genre film is largely a lost art form, one that periodically pops up in our blockbuster-obsessed culture. These typically wind up in direct-to-video purgatory, where they await discovery by brave film travelers.

But they happen enough that one can be forgiven for somewhat resisting “Getaway,” a trashy, cheap thriller released by a major studio (Warner Brothers) and starring both a serious thespian who’s of late become a B-movie king (Ethan Hawke) and a teen pop sensation not above dirtying her image (Selena Gomez). It’s mildly diverting, and it clearly hopes you won’t point out if not its inconsistencies, then areas where it could have tried harder.

The premise is silly but rich — in terms of outlandish situations, that is. Hawke is given the pretty terrific name of Brent Magna, a former Nascar star whose wife has been kidnapped. For ransom, Brent must steal a car in Bulgaria — where films are cheap to make — and do whatever a mysterious man, shown only in graphic mouth close-ups, commands. (The credits on the Internet spoil the famous, crazy actor’s identity, but we’ll be nice.) This baddie, seen operating in what’s evidently the quietest nightclub in the world, forces him to plow headlong into public spaces, evade a neverending legion of police cars, drive down stairs fit for people, plus other bits of relatively minor, eventually faintly monotonous daredevil activity.

The film’s main challenge is overcoming Gomez, who plays the car’s real owner, and who enters the picture looking to carjack her stolen ride. An annoyance who should never hold a gun (“Spring Breakers” Harmony Korine knew that), Gomez does become gradually half-tolerable. But the film, like its villain, proves wussier than it should be. At first Brent is ordered to kill her. When he won’t — partly because he’s no murderer, partly because then we’d be stuck with just Ethan Hawke — the film offers no significant punishment. The bad guy just gives him more stuff to do, which is much like the stuff that came before and will come after.

Director Courtney Solomon (of the “Dungeons & Dragons” movie, no less) struggles to keep things lively, visually. Half the film is comprised of digital footage taken from various surveillance cameras, plus cameras nailed to the car as it whips around town. That, too, proves same-y, and soon it’s not uncalled for to demand some actual invention. The same goes for the rest of the movie.


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