It's Christmas in Bulgaria and you know what that means: your spouse is going to be kidnapped for no good reason and you're going to need to steal a stunt vehicle and drive like a meth-head NASCAR fan through charming Santa Claus displays, destroying all other vehicles in your path like a game of automotive Candy Crush with gun-toting Selena Gomez in the passenger seat.
I'll back up. There is no good reason to set this film at Christmas beyond a desire to ape Shane Black or Metropolitan, because the usual ironic counterpoint the season gives to movies by filmmakers like Black is drowned out here in roaring engine noise or was just never considered at all. But here it is, anyway, the Christmas of Crashing Cars, starring Ethan Hawke as a former racecar driver with a stolen wife (we know he was a professional driver because he says that was his job and because he manages to not kill most of the people he drives headlong into at a 200 kilometers per hour).
A mystery voice (Jon Voight, just happy to work in something that isn't SuperBabies 3), represented on screen by a stubble-encircled mouth, this film's Jigsaw offering moral lessons via life-or-death challenges, tells him, "Your wife has been taken." To retrieve her Hawke must steal a tricked out muscle car and obey a series of tasks that, in real life, would result in the mangled carcasses of every man, woman and child in Bulgaria (and Los Angeles and Louisiana and Georgia -- this thing was shot on the cheap wherever they could get a tax break). He also has to participate in a robbery. He also has to deal with Selena Gomez.
Gomez plays a petulant, stubborn, tough-talking, badass of a nine-year-old. Or at least that's how she moves here, like she got lost on a field trip the cast of Wizards of Waverly Place took to Eastern Europe and is wondering how to get back in time to take the attitude down a notch for Spring Breakers. When she holds a gun it's hilarious. When she develops sudden bank security system hacking skills and knowledge of how to re-route closed circuit camera footage on her iPad, it is something beyond hilarious, something as close to true magic as the film gets. You expect her to hold up her fingers on both hands and shout, "I'M THIS MANY!"
But wait, there's more. There are car crashes. So so so so so so so many car crashes. The most car crashes of 2013 and maybe also of 2014. All the car crashes Fast and Furious 6 and A Good Day to Die Hard forgot to include. Also Cannonball Run. David Cronenberg and J.G. Ballard working together, Rizzoli and Isles-style, couldn't wrangle enough automobile accident sex enthusiasts to make sweet love in the wreckage of these car crashes if they spent five years scouting fetish conventions in Berlin. That's how many car crashes there are. And they are stupid. Numbing, thumping, built-for-3D-but-not-in-3D destructo-blasts.
So yeah. It's a movie about that. With Selena Gomez as a super-hacker. It's garbage. I was into it.