August 30, 2013


I wish someone could please explain how a movie goes from a good idea to the worst release of the year. I feel such sadness and pity for the stunt drivers who risked their lives as part of the making of this week’s new release Getaway, starring Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez in what I hope is the lowest ebb of their respective careers. I walked out with a headache, and offered a critic’s quote to the marketing team outside the theater, “I hated it so much I’d like to shoot this movie in the face.”

You could trust these five words, “DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE” and skip down to Cinema Siren’s top ten car chase movies of all time, or perhaps you’d like to know the basis for such vitriol and hate.


Sigh. Where to begin? The story, such as it is, begins when former race car driver Brent Magna finds blood and his wife missing, then receives a call from a disembodied voice informing him she’s been taken. To keep her alive he must steal a car and do his bidding. Brent’s reptilian brain kicks in, and he proceeds to follow orders blindly to the extent that he plows through public spaces, sending police cars crashing into each other at high speeds. There is no clear body count, but even in the first few minutes, one assumes it would have to be significant. Enter teen smart-ass “the kid”, played by Selena Gomez. The lines she delivers at her kidnapper are parsed evenly between yelling in monotone and abrasively whining. The case for why anyone would care if Brent, his wife, and the kid get out of this alive are never concretely made to the audience. The edited splicing of vaseline shots of Leanne, Brent’s wife, smiling beatifically in slo-mo as he indiscriminately kills pedestrians seems to the filmmakers to be all that is required. I thought we all learned a long time ago that following orders without asking questions is a very bad idea.

If audiences hang in there to the end, will they find justification or a fascinating twist to rationalize the nearly incessant video game-like challenges put forth by The Voice? No. There is an explanation of sorts, but it stands on a single wobbly (and termite ridden) wooden leg. No big twist or reveal is forthcoming, begging the question of auds why they hung in there for the 90 minutes of screeching tires, crunching metal, and bad choices. Fans of Hawke can be buoyed by the fact that he is also in one of the best movies of the year, Before Midnight, which is emotionally excruciating but deep and ultimately satisfying.


The whole thing makes comparison to Fast and Furious, or any reasonably good car chase movie, absurd. Avoid Getaway like a cankerous pothole that will destroy your undercarriage. Just get away.

Meanwhile, there is a plethora of great movies with car chases as central to the movie. Cinema Siren suggests you stay home and watch one of these greats instead:

The Top Ten Car Chase Movies of All Time

1. Bullitt – (1968) First and foremost, as exciting and beautifully shot car chase flicks go, this is essential viewing. Steve McQueen oozes sex appeal and testosterone in this classic slice of 60s cinematic grit. Riveting from beginning to end, it reminds the world why McQueen is still lauded and emulated for his method acting style and ultra-cool demeanor.


2. The French Connection – (1971) There is no one tougher, no policeman more memorable in cinema, than Gene Hackman as Popeye Doyle. William Friedkin created a car chase that makes people visit the site of the filming. Warning: It will make your heart race. Strong ticker required.


3. Ronin – (1998) De Niro, Jean Reno and director Frankenheimer team up for a violent and engrossing story about outcasts for hire, and has a crazy number of great supporting actors from Stellan Skarsgard and Sean Bean to Jonathan Pryce. Lots of close up shots in the car chases make it as fascinating as it is exciting.


4. Mad Max – (1979) Car chases placed in an Australian apocalyptic wasteland starring leathered Mel Gibson as an antihero you will root for, from back when the moviegoing world liked him. A cult classic car chase extravaganza on a super low budget.


5. Duel – (1971) To some this first full length feature film directed by Steven Spielberg is the very best TV movie ever made. Written by Richard Matheson, some poor guy gets tormented on the road by a psycho in a tanker truck. The tagline is “Fear is the driving force” is perfect. Terrifying.


6. Blues Brothers – (1980) John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as Jake and Elwood must save the Catholic home in which they were raised. Playing blues, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, and car chases are all part of the insanity. What sounds like a cinematic disaster is actually great fun.


7. Vanishing Point – (1971) Another cult hit, director Sarafian’s story of an ex-cop chasing the clock to deliver a Dodge Challenger while outrunning police and highway patrol is the quintessential crazy celebration of 70s counterculture, naked girl on motorbike included.


8. The Italian Job – (1969) Michael Caine and his accent should get separate billing in this heist flick, which includes the fabled mini-cooper car chase scenes, sensations Noel Coward and Benny Hill, and the beauty of Italia.


9. Sugarland Express – (1974) Spielberg adds to his car chase cred directing a young hot Goldie Hawn as Lou-Jean, who ill-advisedly brings her family together by springing her husband from prison, kidnapping their child, and taking it on the lamb. This true story shows them trying to outrun a whole state’s worth of cops.


10. Gone in 60 Seconds – (1974) There is a reason this cult film, written, directed, and starred in by H.B. Halicki, was remade in 2000. Some still consider the car chase lasting over half an hour in Long Beach to rank among the best in film history. The 1973 Ford Mustang named “Eleanor” and other gorgeous 70s models on view are a bonus to the excitement, with more crashes than you can likely count.


Honorable mention:
Wanted (2008) It may not be all car chase, but viewers will never forget James McAvoy flipping a car in slow motion, or when Angelina Jolie puts him in the passenger seat while still at high speed. Arguably Bekmambetov’s best US release shows there is always room for a well shot well placed car chase in any action flick.