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Shelby GT500 Stars in 'Getaway'

Wed, 28 Aug 2013

The credits list Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez as the stars of "Getaway," the action/thriller/chase scene of a movie that opens nationwide on Friday, but really the star is the Shelby GT500 Super Snake that Hawke drives.

“Honestly I feel like it's a character in the movie,” director Courtney Solomon told us on the black carpet at the movie's premiere. “We couldn't have made the movie without the car. This was the car.”

It wasn't the car originally written in the script, though. Solomon wouldn't say what that original car had been, but liked the Shelby best because it was the quintessential American muscle car and Hawke's character, Brent Magna, is an American.

“They showed me a lot of cars,” Solomon said. “It [the Shelby] was the character I wanted. You look at the car that's banged up [parked behind us during our conversation], that's not really what it looks like at the end of the movie, it's even worse than that at the end of the movie. It just felt like more and more of a character. It had a face on it.”

Hawke plays a former stock car driver who dropped out of racing because he was "too dangerous" and has moved to Bulgaria with his beautiful wife (Rebecca Budig, who whimpers and screams woefully throughout the movie). His wife is kidnapped by a ruthless criminal who speaks to Hawke through the car's phone system, forcing Hawke to drive the Mustang through the streets of Sofia as part of an elaborate scheme to steal computers loaded with bank account info. If Hawke refuses, it's curtains for the beautiful wife. Oh no!

The Mustang, it turns out, belongs to the computer-savvy Gomez, thus adding another dimension to the story as well as guaranteeing the critical pre-teen, tween and teenaged girl demographic, all of whom were at the premiere and all of whom screamed “Seleeeeeeeena! SELEEEEEEEENA!”over and over again while we were trying to talk to Solomon. But even they weren't as nutso as the Hawke fans, God bless 'em. We were really thankful barricades had been erected.

The plot is actually not as dumb as it sounds, though at first it seems kind of dumb, with crash after crash of passenger cars, police cars, commercial vehicles, city lights that all seem to be filled with either gasoline, magnesium, or both and, of course, the indestructible Shelby Mustang roaring through streets, alleys, highways, flatbeds filled with water bottles, trains filled with dangerous explosives and crowded city parks loaded with baby strollers like the one in "The Battleship Potemkin." In all, about 130 cars were destroyed, though it seems like they smash all 130 in the first few minutes. (Warning: Do not make a drinking game where everyone takes a shot whenever a car is smashed. You will be unconscious before the opening credits.)

Two real Shelby Mustangs were used in the project, one for filming and one for sound. Seven other Mustangs were made up to look like Shelbys, then crashed and glued back together once or twice and crashed again. From the those original seven Mustangs, 13 were bolted together again and recrunched. Yes, they made 13 cars out of seven. It's like classic cars at auction. The rest of the hapless smashees were any number of innocent Central European sedans and hatchbacks, ranging from Skoda-and-BMW-looking police cars to a pair of BMW M6 coupes.

Solomon times things perfectly, pausing the chase at intervals just long enough for the plot to be revealed and the characters to develop: Oh, that's why you're here? Well, then…

Then the chase resumes, with Gomez at first berating, beating and threatening to shoot the hapless Hawke as he plunders the city streets in the 'Stang before the two form an alliance against the common enemy: the unseen bad guy voiced through the car phone.

“He's a real ***hole,” Gomez says at one point. She's not in Disney anymore!

Yes, it is maybe the world's longest car chase scene and, sure, there are incongruities aplenty. As is always the case, the bad guys and cops unload huge volumes of munitions at each other but never seem to hit anyone. The Mustang sails through the air, crashes to the ground like a used Sputnik and then keeps going as if nothing suspension- or frame-breaking had just happened to it (you can't even land a Raptor nowadays without cracking it). And really, how bad a shot do you have to be to keep missing a Mustang with a bazooka from one lane away?

But who cares? Just stop thinking so much.

Which is not to say that the plot itself is as preposterous as those of the "F&F" franchise. I's not that wack, which might not be saying too much. There are, as we said, enough turns and twists to keep you interested. The basic notion of a moral man forced to commit immoral, reckless and dangerous actions for the highly moral purpose of saving his beautiful wife is there. So ultimately you could write a college ethics paper on this if you really wanted (philosophy majors of America, you're welcome).

"Getaway" opens Friday and runs for as long as people keep seeing it. Don't wait. And please, drive safely.

By Mark Vaughn