Bearing no relation to the two film adaptations of Jim Thompson's novel "The Getaway" -- or to reality, for that matter -- comes this "Getaway," a poorly shot-on-video crash-'em-up that makes the "Fast & Furious" film series seem like "Citizen Kane." Not a single moment in this automotive snuff film isn't ridiculous, and its only mystery is why the estimable Ethan Hawke agreed to star.
The head-shaking begins almost immediately with his character's name: Brent Magna. Seriously? Brent is a disgraced former race car driver now living in Sofia, Bulgaria, with his wife, Leanne (Rebecca Budig). When she's kidnapped, Brent receives phone instructions to steal a customized sports car and follow driving instructions that involve careening through pedestrian plazas, crowded red-light intersections and the wrong way down one-way streets without crashing or getting caught by police.
This, he eventually learns, is in service of a convoluted plot requiring him to -- get ready -- cause dozens of cars to crash in precisely the right way, at precisely the right time and at precisely the right spots. For all of this to work, about a thousand near-impossible things all have to happen in perfect order on a rigid timetable.
Part of that involves luring the car's owner -- a rich girl (Selena Gomez, looking about 12 years old), listed in the credits only as "The Kid" -- to where "the police" have told her the stolen car is, having her try to steal it back at gunpoint and getting caught by Brent and forced to ride with him. The Allied High Command didn't have this many variables when planning D-Day.
The movie's countless car crashes do look like practical stunts and not CGI, so kudos to that craftsmanship. Otherwise, "Getaway" is repetitive, reductive and stupid beyond words, with all the plot and emotional resonance of a video game -- less, perhaps, since the police and other drivers presumably dying and getting maimed within smashed hunks of metal aren't even acknowledged. Without the saving grace of satire that made "Death Race 2000" a cult film, this is just Hot Wheels Gone Homicidal.
PLOT Cars crash.
RATING PG-13 (rude gestures, language)
CAST Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez
BOTTOM LINE Like "Grand Theft Auto," with less depth