Noting that the majority of my recent installments of this column have concentrated on older, classic films, I thought that a look at a modern car movie would be nice for a change.
For the past decade though, it appears as if Hollywood has seemingly forgotten about the car flick. Aside from the requisite Fast and the Furious franchise film every other year or so, there has been a noticeable dearth of pictures that focus on cars of late.
Thankfully, an internet search on the genre yielded a smattering of recent automotive films that I had not been aware of. One of them piqued my interest owing to its excellent cast and choice of hero vehicle. That film is 2013’s Getaway, and it’s this month’s subject of Rob’s Car Movie Review!
Distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures, Getaway had an astonishing number of production entities – ten to be exact – involved in the crafting and financing of the movie. The primary production companies were After Dark Films and Dark Castle Entertainment, owned by Hollywood mogul, Joel Silver.
Having that many cooks in the same kitchen is rarely a good thing, but my hopes were high for the film, owing to the fact that Courtney Solomon, a seasoned filmmaker, occupied the director’s chair. Adding to my anticipation was the cast, which included Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke, pop sensation Selena Gomez, and Best Actor Academy Award winner, Jon Voight.
The film tells the story of Brent Magna, (Hawke) a washed-up, former NASCAR driver who has become an ex-patriot in Sofia, Bulgaria with his wife. He arrives home one day to find his residence ransacked and his wife missing. He soon receives a phone call from a mysterious, unseen kidnapper (Voight), who tells Magna that unless he follows a precise set of instructions, his wife will be murdered.
Magna is forced to steal a specially prepared car, equipped with armor and video cameras inside and out. He is then instructed over the phone by his wife’s kidnapper to perform reckless acts in the car, such as careening through a crowded outdoor shopping area, speeding through a populated park, and terrorizing skaters on an ice rink.
Magna realizes that these tasks are meant to create confusion, but can’t figure out the kidnapper’s plan. After a lurid chase with a number of police cars in pursuit, Magna manages to escape to an underground garage, hoping to give himself time to think.
His thoughts are interrupted when a young woman, known only as The Kid (Gomez), attempts to steal Magna’s car at gunpoint. He overpowers her, but is forced by the kidnapper to take her along with him on the next series of dastardly tasks. More destructive high-speed pursuits with police ensue.
The Kid establishes that the car was, in fact, hers and that she was attempting to steal it back from Magna, after receiving an anonymous tip on the location of the vehicle. The two then realize that their meeting was set up by the kidnapper. Soon, Magna and The Kid put aside their differences and contentions, and begin working together to attempt to ensure their own survival.
When The Kid reveals herself to be a skilled computer hacker as well as the daughter of a bank CEO, Magna finally begins to put the pieces together. He reasons that the kidnapper’s ultimate goal is to have them create chaos around the city to overload the manpower of the police, while the kidnapper has a crew rob The Kid’s father’s bank.
The pair are then left to concoct a plan to thwart the kidnapper’s plans and secure the rescue of Magna’s wife.
If this plot sounds entirely preposterous to you, well then come sit and have a beer with me. All of my hopes for an entertaining, if not exactly thought-provoking two hours, was literally sidelined by a narrative so mindless that it denies the viewer the ability to suspend their disbelief.
Adding to the misery of this asinine story, are various technical and aesthetic choices such as the use of annoying, simulated Go-Pro style camera angles, a music video-esque cut every two seconds (the film has close to 6,150 edits, versus 1600 for the average feature film), and preposterous characterizations and dialogue.
The performances in the film are largely phoned in, with Gomez almost seeming to be reading off of cue cards, Voight adopting a silly Slavic accent, and even Hawke, an actor of some gravitas, failing to make you embrace or sympathize with his character’s plight.
What little there is on the plus side here includes some spectacular car chases, all performed for real, without the use of CGI. Over 130 vehicles were apparently destroyed in the making of the film, the bulk of them being police cars. What’s more, 40 actual roll-over crashes were captured on film. Kudos must go out to the film’s stunt team, which extends to Ethan Hawke himself, as he performed some of his own stunt driving.
But for me, the real gem in this sea of mediocrity is the hero car: an exceedingly rare, 725 horsepower, 2007 Shelby GT500 Super Snake.
Resplendent in gloss silver with a black bumper-to-bumper racing stripe, rocker panel call outs, hood pins and a black interior, this Snake looks awesome. It seems to be bone stock, including the OEM Shelby wheels, hood pins, scoops and wing. Sadly, for the sake of the plot, the car is festooned with Go-Pros all over the exterior and interior, which ruins the car’s muscular lines.
Much of the in-car screen time focuses on the car’s SYNC infotainment system as Magna communicates with the kidnapper, and there are plenty of shots of him mashing the aluminum pedals and raking the six-speed shifter.
The car is given the spurs throughout the film, doing some truly amazing jumps and four-wheel drifts. Sadly, in long-standing Hollywood tradition, the car is progressively shot, dinged, scratched and ultimately trashed during the course of the movie.
Such was the rarity of the 2007 Super Snake, with some accounts stipulating that only one was built for a customer from an intended limited run of 50, that Shelby American actually built seven bespoke cars for the making of the film. Many of them were wrecked multiple times during production, and parts would be transplanted from one chassis to another to keep the filming moving forward. In total, thirteen different versions of the car were used and abused, constituting $1.23 million dollars of wrecked Shelbys.
Other hot cars featured in the film include some pretty cool Alfa Romeo 155 and 156 sport sedans and sport wagons, various and sundry BMW 3- and 5-series sedans and coupes, a pair of mean-looking, murdered-out BMW M6, gorgeous Ferrari F430 and F430 Spyders, a Lancia Delta, and a bevy of various Mercedes. Quite a cool collection of European high-performance cars.
In spite of the above average four-wheeled stars and action in the film, and the A-list talent involved, nothing can save the movie from its exceedingly poor script, and over-the-top cinematography and editing. I genuinely wanted to like the movie, but just simply could not. I give Getaway five out of ten pistons, and would suggest you look elsewhere for a good, modern day car movie.
Until next time!