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Getaway (5/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 90 minutes.

OK for children.

Bullitt is a 1968 Steve McQueen thriller that has become a classic because of its car chase. Without question, it is the best car chase ever filmed. However, it has become a curse to moviegoers because it has inspired every director to want to insert car chases in their thrillers. Each one becomes more and more absurd.

What made the Bullitt car chase memorable was that it was believable. There were no airborne cars, no pipe ramps, no turnovers. It was just one car chasing another through the almost empty streets of San Francisco and there was nothing unrealistic about. It was also enhanced by wonderful sound and Lalo Schifrinís terrific music.

Getaway (which, ironically, was also the title, actually The Getaway, of a 1972 Steve McQueen movie, that is only memorable because McQueen started an affair with his costar, Ali McGraw, which caused her to divorce her then husband, Robert Evans, who was the studio chief at Paramount who made the movie) makes the entire movie one long car chase.

If the car chases in this movie lacked credibility, the story is worse. Ethan Hawke is a former race driver who is forced to drive a car under the directions of a voice that communicates with him on the telephone (Jon Voight), directing him to do more and more dangerous and unreasonable things or he will kill Hawkeís wife, Rebecca Budig. Hawke is joined by a terribly miscast Selena Gomez. Itís not that Gomez is a bad actress. Itís that she looks like a 12-year-old, so the pairing with Hawke and the things she does in the movie are incongruous with her looks. And, only in Hollywood, she is a computer genius, able to hack into a strangerís computer at a momentís notice.

But this movie isnít about the story, itís about the car stunts. The story is just a McGuffin, an excuse to make a movie about car crashes. Unlike Bullitt, this film has 25 pipe ramps (running a car up a pipe and turning it over) and 40 turnovers. I didnít count the number of cars that fly through the air.

The person who accompanied me thought it was tense. I didnít. The car chases are so ridiculous and so derivative that they are simply boring. How many times can you be thrilled by a car running down a totally crowded street, cutting in and out of traffic, running over things, going the wrong way, and spinning out, knowing all the time that our heroes will survive? Director Peter Yates was smart with Bullitt. How long do you think the car chase in Bullitt lasted? Less than 10 minutes. Yet more than 40 years later everyone who saw the film remembers the movie because of that ten minute car chase. Now weíve got the ultimate, a 90 minute film consisting of nothing but a car chase, and it will be forgotten by the end of the year, if not sooner.

August 27, 2013