What makes a bad movie? What makes a good movie? The standards are getting lost in murky waters, because many of the critics have no interest in film history and the clear record of what is great and what is garbage. That goes for many filmmakers too. Their standards are what works in the last 12 months and how to try out the latest technology. Unfortunately they often forget the tried and true basics like good writing and good acting.
Getaway is getting dumped on by the critics, but is it really fair? I don’t think so.
Movies that come out at the end of August and the end of January are usually the dregs. They are the things that the studios produce and churn out to fill the gaps between the big expensive movies and the big prestigious movies. In my opinion, many movies are not worth the money that’s thrown at them. Especially if it’s an enormous amount of money. If it’s just a few million, that’s chump change.
Ethan Hawke gets a lot of these small movies. Sometimes it’s a fantastic independent film like Before Midnight (part of a series of films for director Richard Linklater including Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) and sometimes it a genre picture that costs nothing that makes a fortune like The Purge or Sinister. Hawke knows what he’s doing. He wants to make every kind of picture, because he knows that’s the only way to stay viable. Sometimes it doesn’t work out.
Getaway is a simple genre picture made to make people happy. The goal of this movie is to have as many car crashes possible in under 90 minutes. Is that so terrible? Not really, but the problem is that it does get monotonous. There are too many crashes. One wouldn’t expect that to be a problem, but it is. I’ve sat through six Fast and Furious movies, and I thought they were all crap except for the last one. Why? Fast and Furious 6 gave up any pretense of being taken seriously and just went all the way to make the movie fun. They spent a ton of money, but they finally just made the movie fun.
I think that’s all Getaway is trying to be. Fun. I just can’t judge it that harshly, because I think it delivers exactly what a lot of people expect from a movie like this. Cheap thrills. I spoke earlier of directors using new technology to good effect, and I think that’s done here. It’s clear that every car has multiple cameras, so much so that it is actually part of the plot. It makes it possible for a myriad of endless cuts which some have complained about. I think that one of the strengths here is the use of these multiple cameras. It is true that the script is fairly shoddy, but that is one of the biggest weaknesses in Hollywood. They are constantly green-lighting films with weak scripts. The script is the cheapest expense a Hollywood studio has, yet it is the most important element.
Ethan Hawke has been getting better and better as an actor and works hard here and is on screen nearly non-stop. Do not fault the actor here. He did his job. Selena Gomez is young, and this is a stretch for her. She’s not entirely believable, because she playing a poor little rich girl who’s kind of bitchy and has a mouth on her.
There is a stark, mindless minimalism to this film which some people want to compare to Drive. Drive was more solidly rooted in character. There is a trashy, low-rent middle European setting which is like the Taken movies, which seems a more apt comparison. The endless stream of inept Bulgarian cops somewhat distances us from the action. It makes it seem less like Smoky and the Bandit and more an exercise in American isolationism. Never go to Europe because you will encounter some faceless Euro trash villain who will treat you like a worthless interloper. In this case, the faceless villain is literally faceless throughout almost the entire length of the movie. He is voiced with typical hammy relish by Jon Voight.
I think what I want to say is that I defend this movie’s right to be a piece of crap. I think that was the ambition of many of the people involved. In other words, they wanted to make a movie about a lot of car crashes and nothing more. The problem is too many car crashes will render you unconscious.