Following The Hunt for Red October there was a push to make a leading man out of Alec Baldwin. Most of the films he starred in were not too well received by critics or audiences, like The Shadow, Ghost from the Past and Heaven’s Prisoners, however, one of the higher profile attempts was this remake of the classic Steve McQueen/Ali McGraw thriller The Getaway. Adding to the package is Baldwin’s then wife Kim Basinger who was in need of a hit having suffered a loss at the box office with The Real McCoy. The two had previously starring together in the failed romantic comedy The Marrying Man (aka Too Hot To Handle.)
Doc McCoy and his wife Carol are a couple of talented bank robbers who, on a job end up in hot water as Doc is imprisoned in Mexico. Basinger asks Woods for some help to see Baldwin’s release in exchange for their talents on an upcoming heist, Woods arranges for a bearded Baldwin’s release. During the heist an act of treachery sees the McCoy’s trying to escape from those treacherous colleagues, Woods’ strongmen and the police. Car chases, train chases, gun battles erupt as Baldwin and Basinger make a dash for the border and manage to find time to bump uglies along the way a couple of times.
Director Roger Donaldson is no slough when it comes to tight thrillers, having helmed No May Out, Dante’s Peak, The Recruit and Thirteen Days. His early effort Sleeping Dogs was an impressive thrill ride and Donaldson pulled an amazing performance from Sam Neill. Adapting Walter Hill’s original screenplay, Mystic Pizza and Beethoven writer Amy Holden Jones added little to make the most of it.
An attractively tough cast is assembled with James Woods, Michael Madsen, David Morse and very young Phillip Seymour-Hoffman. Each has a decent amount of screen time and are about as ruthless as they come. Morse is particularly relishing his role. Woods is at his sleazy, villainous best and his three scenes are some of the most enjoyable in the film.
Madsen is typically tough, spending most of his on screen time with Jennifer Tilly’s screamy damsel with a severe case of Stockholm syndrome. They have a decent amount of chemistry together, however, the characters are a little too cartoony to be taken seriously, especially Tilly. Seymour-Hoffman is a stand out as the younger, edgy wild card and an early exit is a loss to the film. Royce D. Applegate and Burton Gilliam have notable roles are two friendly faces the McCoy’s happen upon, so likeable that you will hope nothing could happen to them.
This brings me to the biggest issue with the movie, the two leading characters are extraordinarily dull. Picking a few moments from the film, a light-hearted chat with the charming Richard Farnsworth sees Baldwin’s Doc McCoy replying in one word answers and smiling lightly, as if the character has virtually no social skills.
Then there is the funny line. Whilst evading pursuers Baldwin and Basinger end up in a rubbish/garbage tip where Baldwin picks up a remote control car and jokes with Basinger that he has found a car to continue their getaway and proceeds to snigger hysterically at the comment.
Baldwin and Basinger are much better than this, especially when you consider the witty charm they brought to the aforementioned Too Hot To Handle, a film that was a flop and critically mauled. In the dramatic moments we are in good hands as Baldwin and Basinger work through their dilemas, but this is an action movie and somewhat mishandled. Had Baldwin and Basinger brought over some of their lively performances to this, then The Getaway might have fared a bit better.
The action in The Getaway is the one thing that keeps the audience’s attention and whilst there is enough to keep the film from becoming boring there isn’t anything that is particularly striking. Slow motion is heavily used during some of the shootouts, at a period when it was becoming a staple of the cheaper direct to video movies.
When the video arrived at video libraries the explicit nature of some of the scenes were heavily pushed. Baldwin and Basinger have romantic relations twice in the movie and whilst tastefully shot, are about as explicit as you might see in an ITV drama. Jennifer Tilly and Michael Madsen romp lightly in a much tamer scene. If you are coming to this looking for hot celebrity action then you are in the wrong place.
The biggest take away from The Getaway is that it is average entertainment and really isn’t terribly shocking that it has been forgotten about over the years. The original is better and there is no shortage of similarly themed 90’s action movies that are more fun. With every viewing I hope for a lot more from The Getaway but it just missed the target and considering the King of Cool was already a tough act to follow, The Getaway never stood a chance.
Poster art is somewhat standard. I do remember the video art featuring a version with the collage of characters as the regular version, then the blue quad poster art for the “explicit” version.