Set in Sofia, Bulgaria, former race car driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) discovers that his wife has been kidnapped. He doesn't know the identity of the culprit, but suspects the incident stems from his somewhat shady past.
Magna answers his cell phone and hears a man's voice (Jon Voight) give instructions. If Magna can perform a series of tasks without getting killed or caught by the police, his wife will live. If he crashes or gets arrested, Magna becomes a widower.
Magna straps himself into a Shelby GT500 Super Snake, a pumped up version of a Mustang that would seem like a dream come true to any regular dude. But nothing is regular about this mission to save his wife's life, including the dozen or so video cameras attached to the inside and outside of the Shelby, allowing his tormentor to watch Magna's every move. Magna is a spectacular driver, however, and the Bulgarian police seem a bit incompetent, so he quickly rises to the occasion.
But there's one teensy little hitch — a teenage girl gets shuffled into the mix, fueling some major setbacks. While she's simply referred to as The Kid (Selena Gomez), she's tougher than she looks — smarter, too. Holding a gun to Magna's head, she attempts to steal the Shelby. But soon, she's strapped in and forced to go along for the high-velocity ride.
This movie is mostly car chases and crash-em-ups, with repetitive camera angles. There's the clutch cam (we get to see Hawke's worn work boots press the clutch), the gear-shifter cam (the camera is set in front of the stick shift to capture Hawke's hand to press it, and the steering wheel cam (to capture any big turns of the car, but not the plot). At first, the use of these novel camera angles feels fresh, but soon becomes stale as nearly the entire film takes place inside the car.
Hawke is still hot and gives a solid performance. Gomez is watchable but the story doesn't give her much to do beyond displaying bratitude. I'm sure Gomez is quite bright, but casting her as a skilled auto mechanic and a savvy computer hacker pushes the limits of believability.
Maybe dating Justin Bieber shouldn't limit Gomez's range as an actress, but it kind of brands her as, well, a girl who dated Justin Bieber. She has great potential, as displayed in Spring Breakers, but she needs a bit more life experience before she can really give a true high-octane performance.
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