REVIEW: A Perfect Getaway [2009]

“Dude was a Silver Age Marvel freak”

I’m not quite sure why I hold director David Twohy in such high esteem. I see his name attached to a picture and think that it could be pretty good when in fact I haven’t seen very much of his work. Below is a very underrated thriller he worked on with Darren Aronofsky and The Chronicles of Riddick is a fun adventure flick, (and I say that not seeing the director’s cut yet). But seriously, that is it. I know Pitch Black is supposed to be great, I just haven’t had the chance to see for myself. It is like clockwork, though—I see a trailer for what looks like a sub-par Hollywood thriller with little anticipation until, yep, there it is, written and directed by David Twohy. All of a sudden I think, “huh, maybe it will surprise me”. I still don’t know why, but, surprisingly, it did. By no means is A Perfect Getaway any stellar piece of cinema, in fact there is a lot to dislike, however, I had a good time and would actually say I enjoyed myself throughout despite the clichés and contrivances that abound.

Right from the start you can guess how it is all going to end. And you can thank the trailers for that one. Once you bill something as having a “twist” ending or any kind of “you won’t believe it” moment, the mind starts working in overdrive to find the craziest idea and see if it sticks. Even with my anticipation being correct, I was stifled from believing it fully because of certain sequences and dialogue being spoken. I truly believe there is a moment that screams plot-hole since characters wouldn’t talk about certain things if they were the mystery pair who recently murdered a newlywed couple on an adjacent Hawaiian island. But this is a genre film, missteps are not only par for the course, but oftentimes they are acceptable and allowed. Is that a bad thing? I’d say it is; I mean it does kind of dumb down the audience into letting shoddy writing and lazy means of covering secrets up normal. As Nick in the film says, “it all starts with the story though … right Cliff?” If only it did.

Let’s not dissect what’s wrong with the plot. One, it would be futile and two, it would ruin the story for those who haven’t seen it yet. So, why don’t we talk about what works? I have to give it to Twohy for creating a pretty palpable tone right from the beginning. It all starts with some handheld footage of the wedding and segues into our lead couple, Steve Zahn’s screenwriter Cliff and Milla Jovovich’s romantic Cydney, on their honeymoon, filming every second of their adventure on the Jeep ride and helicopter ride to the best dead-end in the world. The handheld footage gives a sense of realism and candidness, allowing us to understand the couple and make them our entry point into the story. With the not-so-subtle placement of a newspaper headline about a murder in Hawaii resting underneath their Jeep’s tire, we begin to put the mystery into the back of our heads in order to discover who the killer might be as we meet new characters. With a duo of couples soon to arrive on screen, Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton’s badass Kale and Cleo as well as Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez’s slightly crazy Nick and Gina, the hypotheses start early.

The tension stays high for the duration as the three couples cross paths and do things to make us wonder and suspect them all. There are people spying on each other, certain skill sets lying hidden that come out to play, and a lot of laughs and smiles to deflect moments that may incriminate. No one is left alone to be the innocent, it could be anyone; heck, it could be a pair of characters that haven’t even been introduced yet. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants, to be going an hour pegging people as killers only to find out none of them are? Surprisingly, and I think effectively, the answer to our guessing is solved with a third of the runtime still to progress forward. Instead of falling into the monotony of whodunit scenarios, we are treated to an extended period of time where the good guys and the bad guys are at war with their lives on the line. There is nothing like suspense and tension being amped up as high as it can to finish off a film. It’s just too bad that it gets subverted by gimmicks like an extended chase scene filmed in goofy triptych and black framed borders, giving a strange comic book feel that is as out-of-place with the rest of the film as can possibly be. Like I said though, it isn’t a masterpiece, no matter how much I might have enjoyed the journey. That blue-tinted expository sequence showing us “what really happened” and exposing who everyone is was a treat, though; especially the acting reversals, not to give too much away.

Acting is what really excels, that of the two lead men anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I think Sanchez showed she can be a capable actress—something not quite seen in her limited time on “Lost”—Jovovich, however, kind of annoyed me with her high pitched, girly voice. No, it is Zahn and Olyphant that steal the show. Zahn has really gotten himself out of the goofy funny guy roles he was held captive by over a lengthy stretch of his career. A bit of that comes through here, but a sense of dramatic skill does as well. Olyphant, on the other hand, has excelled from the get-go, ever since Go. I could listen to him say the word “Outstanding” for an hour and a half and still be entertained. And that’s a good thing since he pretty much does that here. His line delivery and stories of near-death experiences as a Jedi soldier in special ops are vintage. The guy shines above all else and really shows he is having fun, hamming it up for full effect. It is that slightly over-the-top feel that works for A Perfect Getaway. Never taking itself too seriously, it does have the weight and gravitas to stay steeped in realism and keep interest. It could have slipped into camp or too serious for its own good, but, thankfully, it towed the line and ended up being a fun little joyride.

A Perfect Getaway 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

[1] Milla Jovovich stars as Cydney in Rogue Pictures horror thriller ‘A Perfect Getaway.’
[2] L to R: Cydney (Milla Jovovich), Kiele Sanchez, Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Cliff (Steve Zahn) in Rogue Pictures’ A Perfect Getaway.


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