Ethan Hawke's carved himself a hell of a niche working as a leading man in low-budget-high-return horror movies, with "Sinister" and "The Purge," but it's hard to imagine his shift to comparably produced action pictures will be as successful. "Getaway," a bare-bones and empty-headed rip-off of "Drive," features the aforementioned star as Brent Magna, a has-been stock car driver starting anew with his wife in Sofia, Bulgaria. It takes a while before we're even given that information; in fact, the picture opens up with Hawke discovering his better half has been kidnapped, and it's off to the poorly-photographed races from there.
"Drive" distorted cinematic archetypes for the sake of subverting them; "Getaway does it out of laziness. Hawke, rocking a faux-iconic leather jacket, never has motivations past "I just want my wife back." The kidnapper - Jon Voight, as "the Voice" - commands his behavior while watching his actions on closed-circuit cameras (it's not a commentary on surveillance or anything - merely a hack writer's device in service of a never-ending car chase.) Selena Gomez, who remains unnamed throughout the film, joins in on the fun - Hawke steals her Shelby, at Voight's command - and is limited to range-stretching one-liners like "No, don't!," "Please, don't!," and "Not again!"
The substance behind the action scenes isn't admirably pared down - it's non-existent. So it's a wonder that the action sequences and the texture are equally lacking.
Where do you even start? The action geography is bewildering; every time you cut from the inside of the cars to the streets, you're in an entirely different location. Director Courtney Soloman would likely argue that this is the "new" way of editing, packing as much information as possible into each cut, but I'd argue that it's merely a shortcut, and a distancing one at that. You can never vibe along with the car chases, the way you can with great car chases, because you never know where the hell you are.
The cinematography is among the ugliest to grace cinema screens this year. Solomon seems to have legitimately shot footage with the 10 or so cameras that "the Voice" had stationed on Magna's car, and as such the film is a grotesque mix of footage shot on consumer-grade cameras and utterly flat digitally lensed nighttime photography. Remember those boxy old projection televisions from the early 2000s that always had that terribly pixelated, slightly green tint to them? The entirety of "Getaway" looks like that.
I suppose the whole raison d'etre for the picture is a 90-second shot near the end, where Soloman lets a drag race play out uninterrupted, cars whizzing by the frame ecstatically. It doesn't really matter what's come before - this is pure experience, an adrenaline rush, and it works. The unfortunate flipside is that it looks nothing like the 80 minutes that preceded it, nor the 10 minutes that follow. It's just empty pleasure, viscera for viscera's sake. All the picture has on its mind is thrills, but save for that minute-and-a-half it fails to deliver. "Drive" aimed to take the trash out of Eurotrash-style action cinema; "Getaway" puts it back.