There are movies that get trashed, rightly, for playing like one long chase sequence. And then there are those that just as rightly wear their continuous need for speed as a badge — movies like, well, “Speed,” or “Cellular,” a similarly addictive early-career effort from Chris Evans. The relentlessly paced “Getaway,” with Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez, ambitiously shoots to be one of the good ones. But in the end, it’s hard to remember another action entry that expends so much energy on frenetic blacktop choreography and attention-deficit editing with so little to show for it.
A get-in-and-go opener introduces Hawke as Brent Magna, a washed-up race car driver who discovers his wife (Rebecca Budig) has been kidnapped from their home, then promptly gets a call ordering him to steal a ride and get moving. (Enter the movie’s other, unbilled headliner, a custom Ford Shelby GT500 Super Snake. Gearheads will swoon.) As Magna tools through a Bulgarian cityscape, a mystery strings-puller with the extreme-closeup lips of Jon Voight puckishly directs him via the dashboard phone: Go faster, turn, bear down on those pedestrians, lose the cops — or your wife gets it. Cameras installed throughout the car monitor Magna’s every move.
This is intriguing to start, in part because of the stylishness brought by director Courtney Solomon (“An American Haunting”). It’s all one big rush of driver POV shots, tire-level shots, traffic-weaving shots, surveillance-cam shots, shots of Hawke’s tattooed hand slamming the gearshift and his booted foot stomping the pedals. “Fast & Furious” couldn’t deliver better.
Too soon, though, the action turns as repetitive as watching a NASCAR highlight on a 90-minute YouTube loop. Time for the narrative to pick it up a bit, and give a sense of where all this is headed. Gomez jumps in as an apparent carjacker (awfully vanilla, compared with “Spring Breakers”) who’s quickly revealed to be the Shelby’s peeved, tech-wiz owner. But she doesn’t know any more than Magna does. They just continue to careen along the same tiresomely vague course, getting intermittent breaks from the high-speed mayhem so they can bicker flatly. Or deliver overdue, underdone explanations about what they and their all-American muscle car are doing in Eastern Europe, anyway — besides trying to squeeze the most out of the “Getaway” production budget.
Your mind will have been wandering for what feels forever by the time the grand criminal scheme is finally laid out. And oh, the many random thoughts restlessness breeds: Did the filmmakers consider
going with a car you’d actually come across in Bulgaria? Is Voight doing KITT from “Knight Rider” with a borschty accent? And most importantly, are we there yet?