(US/UK/Switzerland/China - 2013)
Acting as if he arrived on set and never shook the jetlag, Ethan Hawke is the improbably-named Brent Magna, a former racing wunderkind who bombed out on the circuit and fled to Europe to become a wheelman-for-hire. He's looking to settle down with his Bulgarian wife Leanne (Rebecca Budig), but he arrives home to find she's been...taken. Faster than you can say "Liam Neeson," Magna is being harangued on his cell phone by a mystery man (a mostly-unseen but heard-too-much Jon Voight, who sounds like he's doing an Armin Mueller-Stahl impression), who orders him to steal a tricked-out Shelby Super Snake and go around Sofia following his orders (leading cops on chases, driving the car through crowded parks, etc) or Leanne will be killed, all the while taunting Magna and boring the audience with such hackneyed bad-guy zingers as "We're just getting started, my boy," and "You're running out of time...tick tock, tick tock." Magna is soon joined by The Kid (Selena Gomez), who actually owns the car and is the key to the mystery man's plot: Magna and The Kid are pawns in his plan to steal computer files from an investment bank whose CEO is The Kid's dad. With a dozen cameras in and out of the Shelby, the mystery man is constantly watching them, but The Kid manages to hack into the mystery man's server through her tablet and fool him with the old "same footage looped" trick, crossing her fingers and hoping he's never seen SPEED. In a truly magical happenstance, The Kid is whatever the story needs her to be at any given moment: whiny rich kid, gearhead, ace hacker, and expert in international investment law. Bravo, screenwriters! I guess if you like crashes, shattering glass, screeching tires, a complete void of logic and suspense, and zoom-ins to Ethan Hawke making constipated faces as he pretends to drive a car, GETAWAY might be entertaining. But for everyone else, it's an incoherent jumble with a dumb twist ending, and for all the work that went into the car chases, you can't make heads or tails of what's going on. Also with Paul Freeman and PASSENGER 57 villain Bruce Payne in tiny roles, GETAWAY opened Labor Day Weekend and tanked in ninth place. Offering nothing worthwhile and looking cheaper than any Bulgaria-shot DTV NuImage production, it's amazing that this actually made it to theaters at all. (PG-13, 90 mins)
(US/France - 2013)
EMPIRE STATE barely got released, and his big summer headlining splash with PARANOIA fizzled badly, opening in 13th place to become one of the biggest DOA duds of the summer. The franchise gigs are good for them now, but does anybody really care otherwise? When's the last time you heard anyone say "Man, I gotta see that new Chris Hemsworth flick!"? PARANOIA is bad, but it's not all Liam's fault. Sure, he's got no presence as a leading man and is really out of his league sharing scenes with three legends in the "just pay me and I'll ham" phase of their careers, but it's just a dumb, predictable, clichéd thriller that's so bored with itself that it never really tries to be anything more than a time-killer. If ever a movie was made to fold laundry and balance your checkbook by, it's PARANOIA, and as such, it fits right in with auteur Robert "Still coasting on LEGALLY BLONDE" Luketic's other triumphs, like 21 and two Katherine Heigl rom-coms (THE UGLY TRUTH and KILLERS).
Hemsworth is Adam Cassidy, an ambitious cubicle drone at tech giant WyattCorp. Driven for success and saddled with medical bills that insurance won't cover for his sick father (Richard Dreyfuss), Adam is convinced he's designed the next big thing in social networking. When he bombs the presentation to sneering CEO Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman) and he and his team lose their jobs, Adam treats them all to a $16,000 night at the club on his still-active corporate credit card. An irate Wyatt then threatens to press charges unless Adam agrees to partake in some corporate espionage and infiltrate Eikon, another tech megapower owned by Wyatt's rival and former mentor Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford), to steal trade secrets so Wyatt can run Goddard out of business for good. You know you're in for some cutting insight when Adam and Wyatt are shown playing chess (SYMBOLISM!) and Wyatt snottily declares "Checkmate!" (See! Adam's a pawn! Get it?). Of course, Adam becomes pupil to the master Goddard and falls for his top marketing exec Emma (Amber Heard), and they have no idea he's Wyatt's plant. Or do they? Hemsworth is bland enough on his own, but he and Heard are one of the most chemistry-impaired screen couples you'll ever see. The film only really comes alive in the two instances where Oldman and Ford are onscreen together, but it's hardly the highlight of either actor's career. If anything, it may well prompt you to watch AIR FORCE ONE again. Oldman plays the pompous ass to the hilt in a performance that sounds like a tribute to Vinnie Jones ("Yaw ay-out when oy sigh yaw ay-out! Oy eewn you!"), while Ford is indifferent and seems vaguely annoyed that he was talked into being in this. For all the shit Robert De Niro takes about phoning in his performances and coasting on his past accomplishments, it seems we've let Ford off the hook. There's a younger generation of moviegoers who see Ford as the guy who used to play Han Solo and Indiana Jones but is now just a grumpy old fart with an earring on talk shows. Ford hasn't challenged himself in years (and this is his second bad tech flick, after 2006's absurd FIREWALL), though he does seem to relish the moment when he tells Hemsworth's Adam "Shut up...you're nothing but a convenient tool, an empty vessel." Scripted line or Ford ad-lib? Discuss. (PG-13, 106 mins)