Universal // 1994 // 116 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // October 11th, 2007
A dangerous deal. A double cross. And the ultimate set up is yet to come.
Sadly, the above tagline only serves to mock the final tally of 1994's The Getaway. A remake of the 1972 classic that starred über-cool Steve McQueen and was directed by the legendary Sam Peckinpah, this retread never gets up to speed. And while there are several noteworthy elements here, their sum total makes for a bad mix.
After successfully busting a convict from jail and delivering him to Mexico, career thief and explosives expert Carter "Doc" McCoy (Alec Baldwin, Beetlejuice) winds up on the wrong end of a double-cross and ends up in a Mexican prison. Having been incarcerated for over a year, Doc enlists his wife and partner, Carol (Kim Bassinger, Batman) to seek out a ruthless crime lord, Jack Benyon (James Woods, Casino) to regain his freedom. Benyon comes through, springs Doc from the prison, and hires him to pull off a multi-million dollar heist at a local dog track. Unknowingly, Doc has been paired with a former associate, Rudy Travis (Michael Madsen, Mulholland Falls), the same psychotic cretin that left him to be captured and jailed in Mexico. Nevertheless, Doc agrees to the heist but promises Carol this will be their last job. But double crosses ensue as Travis and Benyon have their own ideas of how the take will be split -- or not. But the ensuing pursuits and gun battles don't seem to be nearly as devastating to Doc as does the revelation of exactly what Carol did to get her husband out of jail. Now the two need to struggle to stay alive, claim the heist proceeds, and determine if they can ever trust one another again.
The interesting conundrum of this version of The Getaway is that, although it has plenty of good action-film ingredients including wild car chases, bombastic explosions, graphic gunning, and great sex, it's rather boring. As odd as it seems, the film fails to engage its audience since it plays as a disjointed series of vignettes staffed with stock characters that never manage to interest us. Doc and Carol are interesting as a couple-in-crime but we don't really know how the came into this business nor what it is they really want to do going forward (Carol says she wants to escape the crime world but never elaborates on what it is she truly seeks). Doc is far too single-dimensional in his contempt for his wife upon learning what was required of her to bounce her hubby from jail even though she's very clear about the humiliation she underwent for his sake. Benyon is smarmy and dangerous but we never understand how he came into such power and how it is that he can command a posse of thugs to carry out his bidding (nor whether said loyalists would ever become enraged if any harm were to come to their employer). As for Travis, he's vile and despicable but is unexplainably unhinged in his relentlessness. Ultimately, it all seems to boil down to the fact that this host of characters are driven just to secure the satchels of cash, but this isn't enough to get us to believe in nor care about these people -- none of them.
The acting is fine but, again, each actor seems to be performing a solo act within close proximity of one another. Although Baldwin and Bassinger should possess natural on-screen chemistry given their real-life marriage, they simply don't mesh. Sure, we're thankful that they allow us to watch them engaged in a graphic sex scene and the lovely Ms. Barringer sports two of the most prominent pencil-tops I've ever seen, but it all seems so mechanical and not even in the throes of passion can we believe these two people are emotionally bonded. James Woods sneers through his role but is given too little screen time to really gain any momentum. Michael Madsen does a great job in his role but his wickedness seems too overdone for the narrative, such that it is. Oddly, he manages to attract the Jennifer Tilly as the wife of the passive veterinarian but she sidles up to the outlaw far too quickly to be believable. A real loss here is David Morse as Benyon henchman Jim Deer Jackson, showing glimmers of great villainy yet stifled too long to ever become truly interesting. And, look for an early appearance by Philip Seymour Hoffman as the temporary third wheel in the dog track robbery; he's sort of interesting but then he's gone. In the end, you might feel as if you've watched two hours of skits from some sort of sadistic Saturday Night Live.
And now, likely following the previous release of the Steve McQueen original in high definition, we get this knock-off copy in the HD DVD format from Universal. It would be interesting to review the PR justification for the mastering, duplication, and release of this picture in HD since it lacks any connecting power with its audience and also lacks any bonus material within this bare-bones issue. What we do get is 2.35:1 widescreen transfer that has good detail and color saturation yet is afflicted with constant film grain. Largely filmed in light settings, the image is vibrant enough and you can almost count the individual strands of Ms. Bassinger's golden mane (not to mention the goose pimples on her protruding...well...). Shadow detail is well managed during the few darker sequences and, despite the grain, this is a competent transfer. The audio is offered in the usually revered Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix but here it fails to rev up. Although there were frequent surround effects, the transitions from channel to channel come as disconnected sound elements that fail to provide a continuous and coherent soundstage. And, as already noted, there aren't any extras here -- none.
The case is indefensible, and this court will not entertain any feeble attempts to find favor (or pardon) for this film.
Sure, the sex scene is good...
Within the first thirty minutes of this re-imagining of The Getaway you'll realize you're on a ride that's going nowhere. Ultimately, this film will test those HD early adopters that proclaimed they'd watch anything just to enjoy high definition. Let's see what they say now.
The Getaway is guilty of high-jacking a classic from the '70s and doing absolutely nothing to honor nor enhance its Peckinpah pedigree. Ultimately, this shows itself to be a vapid waste of time that's good only for a few clips that might be played over and over again to satisfy the modern-day VH1 snippet-happy mentality.
Guilty as charged.
Review content copyright © 2007 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Unrated