I have seen the future, and it is terrifying. Fortunately it is only one potential future among many, and as long as no Hollywood executive learns any lesson other than, “fuck that,” from the release of Getaway, we’ll be okay. You see, I have seen the terrifying potential conclusion of post-GoPro action cinema, and it is hideous and unpleasant and dull.
The premise of Getaway is simple enough: talented, disgraced stock car driver –hilariously named Brent Magna– is blackmailed into carving a path of destruction through a Bulgarian city with a customized, armored Mustang by a mysterious villain who has kidnapped his wife. The car is rigged with dozens of cameras, a girl gets scooped up into the story, and the villain gets to be Jon Voight’s mouth, as shot entirely in one hotel lobby. What accompanies this straightforward story is an experimental attempt at pushing action filmmaking as far as it will go when the director and his editor effectively have infinite angles to cut from. While it was an entirely reasonable, if misguided, idea to craft the ultimate impressionistic action film from literally thousands and thousands of unique angles captured from dozens of effectively disposable cameras covering every possible angle of every individual movement, we need to brand this one with the “FAILURE” stamp and move on as an industry, a people, a country, a world, a species…
Getwaway is engineered to be as relentless an action movie as you’ve ever seen. Seriously, this flick will make Neveldine and Taylor blush. It begins with Ethan Hawke boosting the fetishized Mustang in a clumsy, ugly montage that jumps between the ensuing car chase and his murky memories of coming home to a ransacked house and it rarely stops from there, moving from car chase to car chase in fits and starts. Things start to stink right away as the film doesn’t limit itself to the motivated car cameras, but instead covers the action from anywhere and everywhere, with the quality of the footage changing relentlessly. It takes on the feeling of relentlessly flipping through hundreds of channels that are all playing different versions of the same movie simultaneously.
The promotional material for Getaway boasts about the 6,000+ edits contained in the film, a number that dwarfs the 1,600 average in most others. And it’s true: Getaway is like no movie you’ve ever seen, in that it may be the most numbingly incoherent film ever put out at this scale. Even when the geography of a scene or the physics of a stunt remain inadvertently clear in this movie, no visceral feelings result. Dungeons & Dragons director Courtney Solomon chose not to restrict himself to the diegetic car cameras as seen in the film (perhaps, say, mixed in with street cameras, dashboard cams, etc. as it might be in a pure “found footage” car chase movie), and instead takes the film’s premise as license to (literally) capture each shot with dozens of cameras and assemble everything later. This throws every conceivable rule, guideline, theory, and hunch concerning film and visual grammar right out the window, and the result is a compelling demonstration of why film professionals have spent 100+ years concerning themselves with such things.
It’s also impossibly ugly, as dozens of different images ranging from the highest-possible motion picture quality to sub-iPhone footage are graded to kind of, sort of match together. This necessitates a layer of grit, ugly desaturation, and general cheapness be smeared over even the decent-looking footage, lest that GoPro angle of the 75th cop car smashing into wall look too grainy smashed against a RED Epic shot.
Ethan Hawke does his best- it’s truly evident he does. Though the vast majority of his dialogue is variations of, “shut up!” or, “hold on!” or, most frequently, “I don’t know,” Hawke keeps it classy. The man has the chops to creating some sort of connection with the audience despite, well, everything. The same can not be said of Selena Gomez, who should not be blamed for floundering when the film dumps the dumbest of the dumb shit on her with merciless frequency. More experienced actors than her have failed to bring life to better written bullshit than she is tasked with tackling here, as she’s forced to transition from cartoonish teenage impertinence to flippant tech-exposition robot. This is a movie that drops mis-used tech jargon like it’s a 1995 spy film, and goes so far as to have Gomez secretly overriding encrypted video streams from what appear to be ready-made iPad apps as fits the story. This is all accomplished by plugging said iPad into a USB charger shoved in the cigarette-lighter port, by the way. These aren’t details that matter all that much in a film that has anything else to offer, but it doesn’t, so they do.
Once there are actually characters and some semblance of a conspiracy plot established, the film has two speeds: tech exposition dump, and “oh shit, cops!” The film jerks back and forth between these two modes, with any ten-minute stretch of car chase completely interchangeable with any other ten-minute stretch. The direction of these sequences is so utterly arbitrary that it takes on the cadence of a shitty videogame, with Jon Voight’s cut-and-pasted commands to “Turn left!, “go faster!” strewn about with no meaning at all, while the editor is somewhere clicking on the “choose angle” button as if he’s searching for the football game on his Tivo.
In fact, I’m partially convinced Getaway was constructed through an editing process involving an intern keying the words, “go fuck yourself” over and over in morse code with the edit bay mouse until he passed out each night.
Getaway is truly one of those movies that has insulated itself from hyperbole by being as frenetic as possible and as dumb as possible. Perhaps the only remarkable achievement is that the teenaged girl with the laughable hacker skillz does in fact turn out to be the most competent person in the film, a choice that at least reads as deliberate. It’s a fun layer, and keeps the film on the genial side of awful-holy-shit-get-me-out-of-here. The film even attempts to pay off its absurd, blinding freneticism with a somewhat cathartic, unbroken POV shot of the hero vehicle pursuing an SUV down a highway for what feels like several minutes. Here the sound and some legitimately-shot speed take over and provide a cool moment, but the staging of this scene is so flat (and reliant on CGI for its few stunts) that my audience started looking at each other in confusion, before laughing at the stilted bits of dialogue puttered out during the course of it.
The problem here is that Solomon and co. have attempted to apply the YouTube aesthetic to an action film, while contrarily exploring the freedom of near-infinite coverage. What they seem to have failed to realize is that people watch montages of near-misses and other crazy, smartphone-recorded spectacle on YouTube because they have a very specific tension to them. There is a rhythm, a buildup and release to those kinds of videos that go viral. The aforementioned sustained shot towards the end of the film tries to emulate this effect, but with no imagination. The rest of the film machine guns low-quality coverage of stunts that have no meaning because we get no time to anticipate the impact. People will happily watch a 40 minute compilation of car-wreck videos –essentially what this film is trying to be with a couple famous faces thrown in– but those spaces in between are truly important, just like the silence between notes. We need those pregnant pauses before disaster strikes lest all that twisting metal and shattering glass become as dull as it does here.
With such a profound misconception at its core, this one plays out as a true disaster not even worthy of a hate-watch. As ballistically shitty an action movie as you’ll ever see, it’s an all-timer sure to join the ranks of Ecks Vs. Sever and Ultraviolet in the pantheon of actioners that anytime you happen to remember they exist, you can’t help but chuckle.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars