By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
The car does not get top billing, but — with all due respect to Ethan Hawke — maybe it should.
The true star of “Getaway” is a Shelby Cobra Mustang, tricked out with (we are told) some kind of bulletproof armor and a great many tiny surveillance cameras.
Hawke plays a former race-car driver whose wife is kidnapped in Sofia, Bulgaria; he’s ordered to get behind the wheel of this car, which doesn’t belong to him, and wait for further instructions.
All this happens in the first 60 seconds or so of the movie, which has no time for a slow build.
So our hero is inside the vehicle for about 90 percent of the picture. Along with the mysterious, sadistic voice over the intercom, Hawke is shortly joined by a teenager (former Disney TV star Selena Gomez), whose purpose will be made clear as the script (by Sean Finegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker) winds its way through the streets.
The mystery of why this unfortunate driver is being forced to careen recklessly into crowded plazas and steer in circles around Sofia’s traffic grid is enough to keep us hanging in there for a while.
Even the crummy dialogue can’t entirely deflect curiosity about the lightly accented voice calling the shots (after a while I recognized the mostly unseen Oscar-winning actor in the role, but will keep mum in case it’s supposed to be a spoiler).
Ethan Hawke can usually be counted on to bring an outsider feel to this sort of genre flick, but he’s especially hemmed in here, not just by the car, but by a hyperactive editing style that leaves few shots on screen for longer than three seconds or so.
There’s one exception, and it’s the best moment in the film: an unbroken single-take sprint along city streets at dawn, seen from the front of a speeding car.
The car chases don’t even look that good — many of the shots have a cheap digital sheen, which is supposed to approximate the viewpoint of the little surveillance cameras that the evil mastermind has installed on the car. But the whole movie’s so dark, everything ends up looking equally blah.
The director is Courtney Solomon, who did “An American Haunting.”
Could be “Getaway” (in which the point is not to get away, incidentally) was intended as an exercise in sleek style, a car movie in the manner of “Drive.” The heroes of both films wear cool jackets, but the similarity ends there; one movie is style, the other is noise.
“Getaway” (two stars)
Ethan Hawke frantically tries to locate his kidnapped wife while at the wheel of a Shelby Cobra Mustang, as an evil mastermind gives him orders. This movie might have been an exercise in style, like “Drive,” but the hyperactive editing approach turns into sheer noise after a while. With Selena Gomez.
Rated: PG-13 for violence.
Showing: Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Meridian, Oak Tree, Woodinville, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor.