The Getaway

(Roger Donaldson, USA, 1994)


This film plunges us straight into the action. Husband and wife team Doc (Alec Baldwin) and Carol (Kim Basinger) practise gunfire as they wait for the slimy Rudy (Michael Madsen) to send them on a heist.

Then a great deal happens in a fast blur – theft, arrest, prison sentence, infidelity – delivering Doc and Carol to the point where they must try both to escape their many pursuers and repair their wobbly marriage.

This new version of The Getaway has greatly disconcerted some reviewers. That is doubtless because it mixes, in an unusual way, two very different registers of drama.

Walter Hill’s original adaptation of Jim Thompson’s novel for director Sam Peckinpah in 1972 was hard-boiled, essentially masculine stuff. It revelled in sardonic humour, the joy of revenge, and the cold comfort of seeing a crummy society trashed to pieces in slow motion.

Amy Jones’ reworking of Hill’s script brings a whole other dimension to proceedings, making manifest something that was only dimly latent in Peckinpah’s offering. Despite all the macho destruction, the relationship between Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw in the original was (as Australian commentator Fiona Mackie far-sightedly argued at the time) a parable of modern marriage, showing two individuals struggling to respect each other’s autonomy and yet still remain a couple.

This theme is highlighted in the Baldwin-Basinger dynamic. There is almost a touch of thirtysomething therapy in the way Doc and Carol periodically stop the plot to hammer out their interpersonal differences.

Furthermore, director Roger Donaldson cannily heightens the contrast between this central relationship and the utterly cold liaison of Rudy and his captive Fran (Jennifer Tilly).

As Richard Marx’s romantic hit “Now and Forever” fills the end credits, one realises that this version of The Getaway is one of the few big-budget films of the ’90s trying to marry, as they say in Sleepless in Seattle (1993), a guy’s movie with a chick’s movie. The effort pays off handsomely.

MORE Donaldson: Dante’s Peak, Species

© Adrian Martin December 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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