In Getaway, Selena Gomez plays The Kid, aka The World’s Most Irritating Carjacker. At first she’s totally adorable, trying to look tough in a hoodie and baseball cap as she points a gun at Brent (Ethan Hawke) and demands he hand over the souped-up Shelby Super Snake Mustang he’s driving. But Brent, a former NASCAR star, can’t do that. His wife (Rebecca Budig) has been kidnapped, and her mysterious captor (played by extreme close-ups of Jon Voight’s mouth and eyeballs) is ordering Brent via cell phone to wreak major damage on the streets of Sofia, Bulgaria — plowing through public parks at high speeds, causing accidents, even blowing up a power station.
The men who work for Voight’s mouth/eyeballs have even placed multiple cameras inside the car, so Brent is constantly being watched. His situation is stressful enough, but the crisis is exacerbated by The Kid’s relentless whinings: “You’re an idiot!” “What do you want?” “Please stop!” “What are you doing?” “Why is this happening?” “No, don’t!” “Ow! Help!” “I hate you.” Occasionally, The Kid, who often brags about having gone to college, busts out her ability to speak in longer sentences, such as “You could encrypt the information on a numeric transfer key.”
Fortunately, The Kid also owns a magical iPad that allows her to access everything from bank schematics to traffic patterns (the movie is practically a feature-length ad for Apple products). Despite the character’s usefulness, Gomez is so irritating in the role that I kept wishing Spring Breakers’ James Franco would swoop in and whisk her back to Florida. And Hawke, who spends almost the entire movie behind the wheel, emotes as much as he can via clenched jaws and furiously intent stares. He does his best. They can’t all be Before Midnight.
Getaway was directed by Courtney Solomon, who knows how to orchestrate some remarkable chase sequences (almost all of the car crashes in the film are real, with only a sprinkling of CGI). But then he ruins most of them by never holding a shot for more than four seconds before cutting away. Many shots last exactly one second. Getaway makes the Transformers movies seem like they were shot in slow motion. You see all these vehicles smashing into each other, but the movie is never thrilling, aside from a remarkable sustained take in which we follow a SVU hurtling through a highway, running red lights and narrowly avoiding accidents, for almost two minutes without cutting away. It’s a bravura piece of filmmaking in an otherwise worthless movie.
Even if you’re willing to go along with Getaway as a brainless entertainment, the picture keeps throwing up obstacles that distract you. The Shelby Mustang isn’t just the fastest car in all of Bulgaria: It also has the ability to heal itself, like Wolverine. Despite being constantly battered and rammed by other vehicles, the Mustang rarely sports a dent. In one scene, the driver’s side is full of bullet holes, even though no one has opened fire yet on our heroes. In the following scene, the bullet holes disappear. And in order for the picture to work, Sofia’s cops are required to behave like the most inept police force on the planet. Never once in this grating, irritating picture does anyone ever think of simply shooting out the Mustang’s tires.
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, Jon Voight, Rebecca Budig.
Director: Courtney Solomon.
Screenwriters: Sean Finegan, Gregg Maxwell Parker.
Producers: Moshe Diamant, Christopher Milburn, Courtney Solomon.
A Warner Bros. release. Running time: 90 minutes. Vulgar language, violence, perpetual road rage. Opens Friday Aug. 30 at area theaters.