Thursday 23 June 2016

Movie Review: The Getaway (1972)

An action film trading on star appeal, The Getaway offers reasonably slick and fast-paced entertainment, but all the stunts, squealing tires and shoot-outs cannot conceal the limited substance.

In Texas, prisoner Doc McCoy (Setve McQueen) is denied parole four years into serving a ten year sentence for armed robbery. Unable to tolerate life behind bars any longer, Doc instructs his wife Carol (Ali MacGraw) to strike a deal at any price with sleazy businessman and master crime lord Jack Beynon (Ben Johnson). Beynon pays off the right people, Doc is released and Beynon connects him with hoodlums Rudy (Al Lettieri) and Frank (Bo Hopkins) to plan and execute a bank robbery.

The heist is messy and several dead bodies are left behind. Doc and Carol find themselves on the run with a bag full of $500,000, trying to make it to the Mexico border, with the authorities, a wounded Rudy, and Beynon's men all on their trail. Doc then uncovers a nasty secret that severely strains his relationship with Carol, while Rudy takes veterinarian Harold (Jack Dodson) and his wife Fran (Sally Struthers) hostage as he mounts his own chase for the stolen money.

Directed by Sam Peckinpah and written by Walter Hill adapting a Jim Thompson book, The Getaway perfectly exploits McQueen's star wattage. A bad guy with good guy looks and less evil intent than all the other bad guys, Doc McCoy oozes McQueen's customary coolness. The film is more about watching McQueen slice through the Texas landscape with the company of a blazing shotgun and a smoldering MacGraw, and less about plot, character or context.

The actual events of the film are quite thin on the ground. The Getaway is a two hour post-hold-up chase, with plenty of padding and fairly ridiculous distractions. The supposedly sharp Carol allows herself to be duped by a rail station conman, triggering a long ordeal for Doc to regain control of the bag full of money. Meanwhile, Rudy's quest for revenge gets bogged down in a tiresome and ill-conceived attempt at dark and sexual humour with Harold, Fran and a pet cat.

But the action scenes are what matter, and Peckinpah conjures up some fine set-pieces. The bank hold-up and its immediate aftermath is tense mayhem, Doc and Carol tangle with the local police in a couple of small towns, they have to extract themselves from a truck full of garbage, and the final showdown at an El Paso hotel is a satisfyingly bullet-riddled conclusion to all the running around.

MacGraw and McQueen fell in love while filming, and while there is undoubted chemistry between them, the sparks cannot hide MacGraw's atrocious performance. Although Hill's script contrives to supply her with the worst lines, her wooden delivery and blank expressions expose a model trying to be an actress and failing miserably. Al Lettieri leaves an impression as the sweaty and unrelenting hoodlum who simply will not give up the chase, while Slim Pickens makes a late appearance near the border.

But with McQueen exuding his sizzling brand of dominant magnetism, The Getaway can get away with sub-par content in almost all other departments.

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