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MOVIE REVIEW : Love Powers 'The Getaway' Car : Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger Steam Up the Screen in Crisp Thriller

February 11, 1994|KENNETH TURAN | TIMES FILM CRITIC

Though it began life as an unpretentious paperback original by pulp icon Jim Thompson, "The Getaway" has turned into a lovers' lane for hot Hollywood couples. Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw starred in the first version, Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger headline this one, and for all we know Macaulay Culkin and Anna Chlumsky are already planning another a ways down the road.

A perfectly respectable thriller that mostly manages to be as crisp and efficient as the crimes it depicts, this Roger Donaldson-directed "Getaway" compares favorably with the Sam Peckinpah original. In fact, if this version has a problem it's that, with the same screenwriter (Walter Hill, now collaborating with Amy Jones) and two of the same producers, its smooth surface sticks so close to its predecessor's that the oomph originality can bring is lacking.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday February 14, 1994 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 7 Column 3 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Solo Encore--Only one producer of the remake of "The Getaway"--David Foster--was a producer of the 1972 original. A review of the movie in Friday's Calendar gave incorrect information.

*

The best thing about this "Getaway" turns out to be that Baldwin-Basinger pairing as Doc and Carol McCoy, partners in crime and concupiscence. Though McQueen and MacGraw may have been just as crazy about each other, the new couple is much better matched in terms of on-screen charisma. Not only in the glamorous love scenes, which will make interesting viewing for future grandchildren, but also in angry confrontations and even quiet moments, Baldwin and Basinger's palpable chemistry brings a pleasant buzz to the proceedings.

First glimpsed on a firing range playfully bickering as to who gets to keep which gun, Doc and Carol are kind of a renegade Nick and Nora Charles who never miss an opportunity to crack wise. While she handles the driving, he is a practiced safecracker and explosives expert, a stand-up guy who does the jobs others say can't be done. "It's a hell of a way to make a living, Doc," she says. "You should have married a dentist," he agrees.

The serpents in this particular garden are plentiful, starting with the grungy Rudy (Michael Madsen), a low-class career criminal who brings Doc a set-up he says can't miss. But "The Getaway" is barely under way before Doc is seen languishing in a Mexican prison, trying to figure a way out.

Enter Snake No. 2, Jack Benyon (James Woods), a disreputable businessman oozing power, influence and unctuous depravity. Benyon has always wanted to use Doc's talents, and the imprisoned man sends Carol, wearing a dress that is practically painted on, to cut a deal: Get me out of prison and I'll sign on for one last job.

Doc gets out, but nothing is simple after that. Grudges and suspicion soon proliferate, double- and triple-crosses become commonplace and everybody ends up chasing everybody else, heavy-duty weapons in hand. Though many of "The Getaway's" most intriguing twists duplicate the original, they still retain the ability to engage audiences.

Aside from greater explicitness in the love scenes, also marking this "Getaway" as up-to-date is an off-putting increase in the amount of sadism present in bad boy Rudy's relationship with a young woman named Fran (Jennifer Tilly reprising the Sally Struthers role). "It's been my experience that having a friend is overrated," Rudy says, and with a friend like him, it's easy to see why.

Director Donaldson, whose last film was the neo-thriller "White Sands," rides out all these storms, doing a solid, unruffled job with the step-by-step crime re-creations and in general bring a bit more style than usual to this violence-begets-violence tale. If nothing else, they don't make many movies with guys named Doc as heroes anymore, and it's nice to see another one come around.

'The Getaway'

Alec Baldwin: Doc McCoy

Kim Basinger: Carol McCoy

Michael Madsen: Rudy Travis

Jennifer Tilly: Fran Carvey

James Woods: Jack Benyon

A Turman-Foster Company/John Alan Simon production, presented by Largo Entertainment in association with JVC Entertainment released by Universal Pictures. Director Roger Donaldson. Producers David Foster, Lawrence Turman and John Alan Simon. Screenplay Walter Hill and Amy Jones, based on the novel by Jim Thompson. Cinematographer Peter Menzies Jr. Editor Conrad Buff. Music Mark Isham. Production design Joseph Nemec III. Art director Dan Olexiewicz. Set designer Wm. Law III. Set decorator R.W. "Inke" Intlekofer. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.

MPAA rating R: for "violence, sexuality, language." Times guidelines: explicit love scenes and considerable gun play.

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