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The Getaway Reviews

THE GETAWAY is a virtual scene-for-scene remake of Sam Peckinpah's hard-bitten 1972 caper thriller. Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger step into the roles originally played by Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw, but their attempts to inject steamy romance into the action are undermined by indifferent direction. Safecracker Doc McCoy (Alec Baldwin) is released from a Mexican prison through the intervention of Arizona racketeer Jack Benyon (James Woods), who needs Doc to supervise the robbery of a Phoenix dog track. With the help of his wife, Carol (Kim Basinger), Doc and two men selected by Benyon, Rudy (Michael Madsen) and Frank (Philip Hoffman), pull off a successful job, marred only by Frank's killing of a resistant guard. At the rendezvous point after the robbery, Rudy, who has already killed Frank en route, tries to ambush Doc, but is outdrawn and shot down. When Doc and Carol arrive at Benyon's desert estate to split the take, Benyon taunts Doc, revealing that he and Carol had an affair while Doc was in prison. Carol shoots and kills Benyon, but Doc is shocked and angry at the revelation of her infidelity. The two begin their flight across state lines to El Paso, where false passports are waiting for them. Meanwhile, the wounded Rudy kidnaps a veterinarian, Harold (James Stephens), and his wife, Fran (Jennifer Tilly), and makes them drive him to El Paso, where he plans to intercept Doc. Also following Doc's trail are Benyon's henchmen, led by Jim Deer Jackson (David Morse). On the run through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, Doc and Carol contend with a locker thief (Scott McKenna) who briefly makes off with their money at a Flagstaff train station; a car chase and shootout with police after Doc's picture is televised; and an unplanned trip to the desert in a garbage truck. After Harold commits suicide in a roadside motel, Rudy and Fran arrive in El Paso and wait for Doc at Gollie's Hotel. Doc and Carol show up, followed closely by Benyon's men. In an extended shootout, Doc and Carol kill Rudy and all but one of Benyon's men (the survivor is allowed to flee). As police cars converge, Doc and Carol hop in next to a compliant pick-up truck driver (Richard Farnsworth), who takes them over the border into Mexico and freedom. This remake is so colorless that it seems less an homage to Peckinpah or source novelist Jim Thompson than a strictly commercial vehicle designed to exploit interest in the real-life sexual chemistry of stars Baldwin and Basinger. The filmmakers simply dusted off Walter Hill's 1972 script, rewrote the beginning--adding a new caper which lands Doc in a Mexican prison--and, apart from substituting a dog track betting office for a small-town bank, stuck faithfully to the rest, retaining much of the original dialogue. The cast of the remake includes a number of otherwise energetic performers--Madsen, Woods, Morse, and Tilly--who go through the motions with great flair, but never seem to inhabit their characters. In the remake, the actors do everything they're supposed to, but without any sense of being a part of the terrain. The terrain in fact was a major character in the original--Peckinpah made expert use of the wide-open spaces of Texas and fashioned a palpable sense of time and place. Although shot entirely in Arizona, the new version looks as if it could have been filmed anywhere. Either the Southwest has succumbed entirely to the "malling" of America within the last 20 years and adopted the homogenized architecture of suburbs everywhere--not an unlikely development--or else director Roger Donaldson has no feel for the unique textures and rhythms of the region. Given the recent revival of interest in pulp novelist Jim Thompson, it's significant that the filmmakers passed up a chance to return to the harder-edged characters and bleaker tone of the 1959 novel. The so-so box-office performances of such faithful Thompson adaptations as AFTER DARK, MY SWEET and THE GRIFTERS (both 1990), along with the innate repulsiveness of Thompson's sociopathic criminal duo, would likely have dissuaded even the bravest backers. In the end, presumably, it was decided that what was good enough for McQueen and MacGraw would be good enough for Baldwin and Basinger. (Violence, profanity, nudity.)