Getaway: Brent Magna himself, chewing on Brent Magna's toothpick.
Ethan Hawke is Brent Magna. Let me repeat that so the absurdity just washes over you: Ethan Hawke is Brent Magna. No, really. In Getaway, Ethan Hawke stars as a character named Brent Magna, a washed-up professional race car driver. Brent Magna and his wife are American, but they live in the city of Sofia, Bulgaria for reasons that probably have to do less with plot and more with the bargain-basement budget of Getaway. Brent Magna's wife is kidnapped, and a mysterious man with a cut-rate Werner Herzog accent (Jon Voight) demands that Brent Magna steal a fancy car—press materials say it's a "Ford Shelby GT500 Super Snake"—that the man's goons have fixed up with armor and an extensive array of webcams. The mastermind has conditions: Brent Magna must do exactly as he says, or Brent Magna's' wife will die. He is always watching Brent Magna. Brent Magna can not get arrested or leave the car. He has to follow the mastermind's directions to the letter. And then the mastermind issues his first demand: "Smash into everything you can!" Magna, his face wracked (or, you know, kind of wracked) with (a reasonable facsimile of) angst, proceeds to drive through a park full of people at top speed, fearful that he'll kill someone but desperate to get his wife back.
Getaway doesn't aspire to be anything more than an entire movie set at six stars on Grand Theft Auto's wanted scale. It happens over and over again: Brent Magna drives recklessly, some police cars chase him, and then he outdrives them. For such a low-budget flick, there's a lot of non-digital destruction: Cars explode and crash into other cars in interesting new ways. Eventually, some bad guys on motorcycles get in on the chase, too. With a few small exceptions, the action scenes are unfortunately too choppy and spatially uninspired to make this a must-see classic of car-chase cinema. We see Brent Magna grit his teeth at a police car, then we see his car whizz by that police car, and then we see that police car pinwheel off into a calamitous explosion. But at least the mystery antagonist's plan is, thankfully, not over-explained. His real objective is a mystery for most of the film, but even when it is revealed, we're not forced to sit through a painful info-dump. He's the bad guy. He wants bad things. This is a pulpy movie; no additional explanations are necessary.
Unfortunately, though, Brent Magna gets saddled with a kid sidekick, played by Selena Gomez. (In the trailer, Gomez, who is billed just as The Kid, appears to be a carjacker, but the truth is more complex than that. Which is a good thing, because Gomez's baby face and Disney Channel demeanor couldn't sell a carjacker vibe even if an Oscar was on the line.) Gomez, quite simply, can't act. Even next to Ethan Hawke's lazy B-movie Tom Cruise schtick, she comes off as embarrassing and unprofessional. When she swears, long-dead sailors roll over in their watery graves. When she's supposed to be hacking into the car's webcams with her iPad, her look of "concentration" is laughable. Because of Gomez's intrinsic void-iness, The Kid and Brent Magna have no charisma together. Considering much of the movie is made up of those two characters sitting in a car together, reacting to each other, that makes Getaway feel like a real long haul.