"Getaway" may leave your head spinning -- at how an entire movie can be reduced to a series of insane chase scenes stitched together with a silly, nonsensical plot that pairs Ethan Hawke with a miscast Selena Gomez and plops the whole enterprise in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Yes, Bulgaria, where many cars went to die or to be harmed in the making of this action thriller.
1.5 stars = Bad
Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez.
PG-13 for intense action, violence and mayhem throughout, some rude gestures, and language.
Mr. Hawke plays Brent Magna, a onetime race car driver who discovers his wife has been kidnapped. To save her, he must find and steal a Ford Shelby GT500 Super Snake, tricked out with armor along with multiple cameras inside and out, and embark on a mysterious mission.
An accented voice, communicating by phone, warns him: "During the course of the night, you will be given several tasks. If you fail at any, you will never see your wife."
The man delivering orders is like a maniacal GPS: Speed up. Go left. Turn into the park. Smash into everything you can. Drive onto the skating rink. Head down the stairs. Send Christmas revelers running for their lives.
Not long after the ominous odyssey begins, an armed young American -- known only as "The Kid" (Ms. Gomez) -- tries to hijack the car and becomes another hostage who bickers and then, of course, bonds with Brent.
He starts off telling her, "I want you to stop talking," but comes to appreciate her insight and computer skills, which consist of talents such as making three quick taps on a screen and hacking into a sophisticated feed. Really?
"Getaway" is all about the driving, with fetishistic close-ups of Brent's boots stomping the pedals or his tattooed right hand grabbing the gear shift. With tires squealing, he speeds through the city, leaving a trail of broken bodies (mainly cars, since we almost never see the human toll) and smashes, bashes and crashes.
Filmed in Bulgaria, "Getaway" looks gritty and low rent, as though most of the budget went to stunt drivers and fleets of cars, along with salaries for Mr. Hawke, Ms. Gomez (either out of her depth or just the wrong actress for a poorly written role) and a veteran actor whose identity is revealed at the end.
Mr. Hawke has been on a winning streak of late with "The Purge" and "Before Midnight," but he comes to a screeching halt here and so does the summer movie season of 2013.