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‘The Getaway’ (R)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 11, 1994

Famous couples used to have names like Bogart and Bacall, Gable and Lombard, Hepburn and Tracy, Burton and Taylor. The thought of such legends sharing real time was delicious. When they brought this extra-dimension into their movies, it charged up even the silliest star vehicles.

In the era of Willis and Moore, Quaid and Ryan, Johnson and Griffith, that excitement is nonexistent. In "The Getaway," a remake of the 1972 adaptation of the Jim Thompson novel, spouses Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger -- the latest flavors of the month to tie the knot -- slum their way through a glam-noirish extended video. Amid director Roger Donaldson's pseudo-atmospherics and the ersatz Thompson fare hacked up by screenwriters Walter Hill and Amy Holden Jones, they shoot guns, plan heists, talk tough and make love in silhouette.

After helping spring a Mexican from American jail, professional heistman Baldwin is double-crossed and finds himself lingering in a Mexican penitentiary. Thanks to Basinger's appeal to sleazy power broker James Woods, Baldwin's escape from Mexico is secured. Woods then hires the couple to rob the vault at a dog-racing track -- along with thugs Jim Madsen (sporting a Howard Stern-psycho wig) and Philip Hoffman.

They get the money, but some, uh, personnel difficulties arise. There's a lot of gunfire, and a harried retreat to Woods's desert estate, where Baldwin finds out just what Basinger did to get Woods's help in the first place. It sure wasn't cash. Baldwin is furious -- but in a lifeless-pinup sort of way.

"You'd do the same," pleads Basinger. Let's assume she doesn't mean Baldwin would sleep with Woods.

At any rate (and to a generic burst of romantic reunion music from composer Mark Isham), the lovers make up after the following exchange:

"Get in," says Baldwin, pulling up next to her in his convertible.

"Go to hell," says Basinger.

"Hey," says Baldwin. "Get in."

And they say Shakespeare was the bard.

With a rising body count behind him, and all that dog-track cash, Baldwin is a wanted man. As he and Basinger make a romantic beeline for the Mexican border, they're pursued by the cops, Woods's nasty henchman David Morse, and Madsen who -- in typical movie-'90s fashion -- is a villain along the lines of the battery-powered bunny in the TV ads: He keeps going and going and going . . . .

One can only hope the real Baldwin-Basinger marriage is more exciting than this movie version. There's really nothing to do except count how many times Basinger takes a shower behind misty shower doors, or squint tightly at Baldwin's chest hair until it starts to look like a cashmere sweater.

There isn't a magic moment between them; not an atom of explanation as to how they got together, or why they love each other, or even why they like to make love with each other. It's as if our People magazine reading should be considered as exposition.

Some passing thrills: a fairly thrilling interlude, in which a scam artist makes off with the stolen booty and Baldwin has to chase through a train to get him; and Jennifer Tilly, as the nutty wife of a boring veterinarian who's just waiting for the next gangster to whisk her away. But for the most part, this is a series of fake gangster-on-the-lam stylistics from Donaldson, including a longwinded shootout finale in a seedy motel and attention-goosing moments such as the scene in which Madsen nonchalantly pushes a hanging corpse out of his way so he can relieve himself in the commode.

When Baldwin and Basinger were shopping around for a neat little remake to star in, they really should have talked to director Abel Ferrara. His upcoming remake of "The Body Snatchers," in which real people are replaced by lifeless drones,would have been just the ticket.

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