Drive, he said

“Quick! Let’s ditch this wreck of a film while we still can.”

“Quick! Let’s ditch this wreck of a film while we still can.”

Rated 1.0

Getaway is a movie for people who think The Fast and Furious franchise has gotten too low-key and realistic, its plots too mundane and slice-of-life, with too much dialogue interrupting the car chases. Writers Sean Finegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker and director Courtney Solomon set the bar so low that it constitutes a sort of high: Let’s see if we can make a movie with no plot whatsoever, and no more character than it takes to fill the front seat of a car.

Ethan Hawke plays—if that’s the right word for what he’s called on to do here—somebody called Brent Magna. Brent is a former race-car driver who has been somehow disgraced—all he will say is that “the only thing I was good at was wrecking expensive cars”—and is now trying to rebuild his life in Sofia, Bulgaria. Ah, yes, Sofia, that international mecca for people who want to start over.

Exactly what Brent has been doing in Sofia is, like much of Finegan and Parker’s script, left unexplained. “Done some things I’m not proud of,” he says. (Ethan Hawke might want to commit those words to memory if he plans to continue making pictures like Sinister, The Purge and now this.)

Now somebody has kidnapped Brent’s wife Leanne, played by Rebecca Budig, who actually is from TV soap operas, having played something called Greenlee Smythe for 12 years on All My Children. In Getaway, she has little to do but sob and squeal and say things like, “Why are you doing this?” and “Please don’t shoot me!” So, what Ms. Budig may be capable of remains, for the moment, unknown outside the fan base of All My Children.

As Brent stands in the shambles of his and Leanne’s ransacked home in suburban Sofia, his cellphone rings. It’s a character identified only as The Voice, but any connoisseur of lips photographed in closeup will recognize Jon Voight, sporting an accent that makes him sound like Colonel Klink on Hogan’s Heroes. “Doo ass I say,” The Voice orders Brent, “or your vife vill tie.”

The Voice’s plans for Brent begin with stealing a car. Not just any car: It’s a Shelby Super Snake loaded with options—most of them consisting of a multicamera video surveillance system so The Voice can keep an eye and ear on Brent as he negotiates the obstacle course laid out for him. It’s a sort of combination of destruction derby and Beat the Clock, and Brent’s instructions essentially boil down to “drive all over the place wrecking other cars and scattering bystanders.”

With a side trip into kidnapping. This is where Selena Gomez comes in, playing someone known only as “The Kid”—Finegan and Maxwell apparently having exhausted their fertile imaginations coming up with “Brent Magna” and “Leanne” (other character names include The Man, Distinguished Man, Head Valet, Thug and Henchmen 1, 2 and 3). The Kid is the actual owner of the car Brent has stolen. She’s also very tech savvy and has a smart mouth. Also, her father is CEO of the Incredibly Rich and Slightly Shady Investment Bank of Sofia. This is not a coincidence.

The Kid begins their evening together by shoving a pistol into Brent’s face and demanding her car back. From there, she progresses to wheedling and begging to be dropped off at the nearest corner as Brent sends them both careening through streets, over sidewalks, around turns, and through crowded parks at the behest of The Voice. Somewhere along the line, however, she and Brent become partners in trying to outwit their tormentor. This happens so suddenly that I wondered if somehow a reel or two had been left out of the release print, although the thought of Getaway running any longer than it already does was too depressing to contemplate.

In the end, not to spoil something that’s already pretty rotten, the whole game seems to have been a sort of audition, as a sequel seems to be threatened. Getaway’s title is never really explained—unless it’s Finegan, Parker and director Solomon who think they’ve gotten away with something.