I was 11 when I first saw this movie on HBO. Not knowing what it was about, I watched anyway because the HBO parental guidance listed “Adult Content”, “Adult Language”, and more importantly, “Strong Sexual Content”. In the mind of a hopeless and horny pre-adolescent, this was right up my alley. When I was describing it to my peers back then, I basically summed it up as a robbery with plenty of sex and violence. Now, 20 years later, the same assessment still applies.
But, again, it’s been 20 years. And in that time, I’ve garnered more than sufficient knowledge to give a more detailed take on this film.
Title: The Getaway
Released: Feburary 11th, 1994
Director: Roger Donaldson
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger, Michael Madsen,
Jennifer Tilly, David Morse, Philip Seymour Hoffman
PLOT: First of all, this movie is a remake of a 1972 Sam Peckinpah film of the same name. So it follows the same plot and details with some 90’s modernism thrown in. Carter “Doc” McCoy (Alec Baldwin) is an expert thief looking for the one big score that’ll keep him and his wife Carol (Kim Basinger) out of the criminal game for good. After being double-crossed by his partner Rudy Travis (Michael Madsen) and the Mexican drug lord they were working for, Carter spends over a year in a Mexican prison. While serving time, he tells Carol to look up a powerful Arizona businessman named Jack Benyon (played by James Woods with modicum of sleaziness) and for her to offer his (Carter’s) services to him in exchange for an early release from prison. Shortly after being released, Benyon proposes a heist job at a dog-racing track worth at least a couple of millions in cash. Carter agrees to do so and Benyon, by chance, teams him up with Rudy and a very green thief named Hansen (played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman).
The robbery goes off mostly without a hitch and has the suspense and explosions that are pre-requisites for this type of action. While driving to the rendezvous point after the robbery, Rudy kills Hansen and attempts to do the same to the McCoy’s upon their arrival. Of course, Carter anticipates this, empties a clip into Rudy and leaves him for dead. Later, arriving at Benyon’s estate to divide up the money, Benyon reveals what the audience had already suspected: To obtain McCoy’s services and an early release from prison, Carol had repeated sexual relations with Benyon. Upon that revelation, Carol shoots Benyon multiple times in the chest, killing him. From this point on, Carter is upset at his wife for what he views as a betrayal, but several scenes later they appear on good terms. With Benyon dead and McCoy’s face on the news as a wanted man, Carter arranges for a contact in Texas to make expensive fake ID’s for him and his wife. Mind you, this was the back-up plan he shared with Hansen and Rudy in case the aftermath of the robbery got too hot. Speaking of Rudy…
…he survived his shooting by wearing a bulletproof vest and passes by a rural veterinarian clinic. He stops by and forces the meek doctor, Harold Carvey (James Stephens) and his wife Fran (Jennifer Tilly) to treat his wounds at gunpoint. He additionally forces them to drive him to El Paso so he can meet with Doc, kill him and take the money. During that time, Fran is attracted to Rudy and his brutishness. It’s not long before she and the injured Rudy have wild sex in a motel with Harold tied to a chair and forced to watch. Harold commits suicide shortly after, then Fran and Rudy make their way to El Paso. However, unknown to Rudy and the McCoy’s, Benyon’s men led by Jim Deer Jackson (David Morse) are waiting to ambush them and take the money for themselves. The result is a Texas motel shootout with bloodshed everywhere.
MY TAKE: What hurts this film the most is that it’s a remake. Had it been original, it probably wouldn’t have suffered as much critically and commercially. In terms of acting, Baldwin and Basinger are merely OK. Their sex scenes tend to get more shine with everybody talking about how ‘believable’ they were since both were a married couple at the time. Baldwin is the more versatile actor between the two. I remember him from 1988’s Beetlejuice and how he portrayed a meek and bespectacled New England husband. Seeing him go from that to Malice to this shows his range. A young Philip Seymour Hoffman (he hadn’t added his middle name to his professional name at this point) is a bright spot for any fan of his work. James Woods brings his usual slimeball charm to his role, but the Madsen-Tilly subplot is more interesting than the main plot.
It’s bizarre and darkly comedic which almost gives it no place in the film. Seeing Madsen’s Rudy stroking a cat while threatening a married couple at gunpoint is fun to watch. And him tying the cowardly doctor to a chair while boning his willing wife was just sadistic (I’ve offered that service to married women I know in the event that they should ever wish to seek revenge on their husbands). The still image above was after an impromptu food fight between Rudy and Fran. More than that, Rudy asserts his bullying dominance by making Harold piss himself while continuing to drive. There were some plot holes in this segment: How did Madsen, whose character was injured and has only one good arm, strap Harold that tightly to that chair? And Jennifer Tilly? To this day, people still view her cuckolding sex scene as one of the best ever. She plays Fran with a certain timidness (along with a her distinct mousy voice) and then goes full-throttle nuts after Madsen ignites her clearly-repressed ardor. And Madsen’s reaction to Harold’s suicide? He nonchalantly places the aforementioned cat on top of the hanging body while using the toilet. Personally, if I was in the husband’s position, I would have given Madsen’s character a poison vaccine under the guise of medicine and did the same to the wife. Being heart-broken is no excuse, much less a reason for suicide. Looking back, the couples in the sub-plot and the main plot are polar opposites to one another. Roger Donaldson could’ve expounded upon this plot, but I guess he didn’t want to be accused of misogyny as Sam Peckinpah was in the original film. Overall, looking on the film with new eyes, it’s just mildly entertaining. It’s something you view now on a bored Saturday afternoon.
Sy L. Shackleford is a jack-of-all-trades columnist for Action A Go Go. A UConn graduate with a degree in both psychology and communication sciences, he is a walking encyclopedic repository for all things Marvel Comics, movies, hip-hop, et. al.