"Getaway" will never be mistaken for a "Fast & Furious" sequel. It's more like "Taken … for a Ride!" Terrible but, in its squealing way, sporadically fun-terrible, it features a glowering Ethan Hawke as a former professional race car driver named Brent Magna … or Brock Magma … or Frack Slaterock … or something like that. Let's call him Magma.
Magma and his wife (Rebecca Budig, seen mostly in black-and-white, those-were-the-days flashbacks) live in Sofia, Bulgaria, allowing the producers to film in a city willing to let visitors mess up traffic for a spell.
Mrs. Magma is abducted on Christmas and held in a warehouse, so that a criminal mastermind listed in the film's credits as The Voice (Jon Voight, more or less German this time) can blackmail Hawke's character into "a series of tasks" behind the wheel of a custom Ford Shelby GT500 Super Snake. These include a high-speed assault on a crowded ice rink and several rounds of police pursuits and evasions. Selena Gomez takes the passenger seat. In one of the weirdest character introductions in the history of any medium, her character, the least-madcap heiress around, known only as The Kid, attempts to steal back the car belonging to her. So. You have Magma, The Voice and The Kid. This movie is The Dumb.
As steered with more enthusiasm than skill by "An American Haunting" director Courtney Solomon, the takeaway on "Getaway" goes this-a-way: Is there anything a filmmaker can't do in Sofia, Bulgaria? With Los Angeles and environs suffering millions in lost revenue thanks to runaway film production, "Getaway" serves handily as Exhibit A. Certain shots and the most head-banging stunts on view suggest that you can happily murder all sorts of extras if you film there. The action in "Getaway" is hacked up into messily edited bits, run through what are supposed to be a dozen different surveillance cameras recording the action inside and outside the death car. With Voight's voice on the car's GPS saying things like "Smash everything you can," the movie makes its intentions clear.
Hawke's character spends most of the film not knowing why The Voice is making him do the things he does. Magma and The Kid trade cross-generational barbs ("Stop almost killing us!" she whines at one point) and develop a grudging mutual respect, although if you look up the word "chemistry" in the dictionary, you won't find a picture of these two actors together. The repeated close-ups of Hawke's foot slamming the clutch are more expressive. The movie requires little acting; it requires screeching — of tires.
I will say this: It's perversely satisfying to see the Bulgarian capital roughed up by a movie crew in this way, even by second-raters. And near the end there's an extended shot, taken with a car-mounted camera, reminding audiences of the gut-level pleasures of high velocity. The rest of "Getaway," which many in the audience seemed to genuinely hate based on comments on the way out, is so mechanical and derivative, not even the abducted-spouse routine can stoke the audience's rooting interests. Still, I confess: After the screening, I drove my Honda Fit home like a maniac.
"Getaway" - 1 1/2 stars
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for intense action, violence and mayhem throughout, some rude gestures, and language)
Running time: 1:34