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Film review: Getaway, The

Published: Friday, Feb. 18 1994 12:00 a.m. MST

There's really only one question to ask about this new version of "The Getaway": Why?

We already have a perfectly serviceable version of the Jim Thompson novel, adapted in 1972 by director Sam Peckinpah and screenwriter Walter Hill. The stars were Steve McQueen, strutting his macho stuff, and Ali MacGraw, at her most vacuous.

Now we have director Roger Donaldson ("No Way Out," "Cocktail") and screenwriter Walter Hill (are you getting deja vu?), along with co-screenwriter Amy Jones ("Mystic Pizza"). And the new stars are Alec Baldwin, strutting his macho stuff, and his real-life wife Kim Basinger, who at least offers better line readings than MacGraw.

But as you might expect, the only substantial difference is that the 1994 version includes plenty of hyper sex and violence, as graphic and raw as a '90s flick can get.

But the question remains: "Why?"

This new version, for all its updated trappings, is so faithful to the first film that it's practically a frame-for-frame rehash most of the way, right down to slow-motion shootouts. (It even includes that silly Mormon joke from the first version.)

With Hill rewriting his own screenplay and two of the earlier film's producers on board, what did they expect?

The story has Doc McCoy (Baldwin) in prison when his release is arranged by big-time criminal Jack Benyon (James Woods), who needs a good "security" man for a heist he's plotting. Doc's wife Carol (Basinger) is the one who persuades Benyon — and Doc isn't too happy about it when he finds out.

The heist is a robbery of some $2 million at a dog racetrack (it was a bank in the first film), but, naturally, everything goes awry.

So, the McCoys find themselves on the road with a bagful of money, racing from the law and the crooks, blowing up police cars, shooting it out in a sleazy hotel and getting squashed in a dump truck along the way.

There is also an overplayed, idiotic subplot about their double-crossing cohort (Michael Madsen) picking up a timid veterinarian (James Stephens) and seducing his bimbo wife (Jennifer Tilly).

Basinger has been saying in interviews that she would only do this film after the filmmakers agreed to make her character tougher. And while she is better with a gun, that's about it.

The bottom line here, however, is that this picture is so much like its predecessor that it's completely unnecessary. Why bother if you're simply going to regurgitate the same old stuff in a new package?

"The Getaway" is rated R for considerable violence, sex, nudity, profanity and vulgarity.