It’s unfortunate that writer/director David Twohy lacks confidence in himself and his audience.
A Perfect Getaway is a near-perfect summer thriller that has more guts than most of the Hollywood drivel released between May and August. The surprise comes when writer/director David Twohy loses his nerve and decides to play it safe instead of following through on an unexpected and inventive twist near the end of the movie. Twohy sets up a rather bland but entertaining first act; the second act raises the stakes for the characters and involves some pretty gripping moments. In the end, though, he backs out of what would have been an awesome final act, thereby cheating the audience and doing an injustice to the first two-thirds of his movie.
Set in the idyllic islands of Hawaii, A Perfect Getaway starts with a couple, Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich), who are enjoying living the life of newlyweds. Things turn serious when they are told about murders that happened on one of the other islands. This makes Cliff and Cydney very hesitant to continue on their planned hike, considering the two couples they’ve just met. Kale (Chris Hemsworth) and Cleo (Marley Shelton) look as though they’ve traveled a long and hard path that didn’t involve a lot of showers. Kale is blunt and intimidating and immediately sets Cliff on edge.
The happy couple also meets and spends time with Nick (Timothy Olyphant), a former Special Ops soldier who teeters between insanity and cluelessness, and Gina (Kiele Sanchez), a Southern belle seemingly without a care in the world. Not knowing if the killers have hopped over to their island, the four trek through the beautiful Hawaiian forest with a secluded beach as their final destination.
Twohy does a fantastic job introducing the characters and the mystery surrounding each one. He uses an especially effective opening credit sequence to pull the audience in through the use of wedding footage. The audience is given reasons to suspect each of the couples that Cliff and Cydney encounter, but Twohy does just enough to keep the audience guessing which couple we should really be watching.
Twohy, who can claim the moderate credit for writing and directing Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, is clearly a very intelligent and competent director. It’s unfortunate, then, that he lacks confidence in himself and his audience. Without the audience knowing it, Twohy explicitly lays out what is going to happen as the movie unfolds. Or at least what probably did happen in the first draft of the script.
Zahn is surprisingly good as Cliff and shows a wider range of ability than previously seen. He’s clearly worked on his physical presence for this role, and it helps when spending most of the movie standing next to Olyphant and Hemsworth, each of whom have six inches and 40 pounds of muscle on Zahn. Olyphant does his usual lovable jerk performance, but we still love it because he’s so damn likable. Jovovich tries to insert herself into the movie, but the role doesn’t give her much to work with so she’s left mostly to support Zahn. Sanchez, meanwhile, is doing everything she can to distract the audience from her beauty and bring attention to her acting, which is quite overdramatic.
A Perfect Getaway is a lot of fun and makes Hawaii look better on screen than it has in a long time. If only the filmmaker could have had the same passion for his script that he does for sprawling aerial shots, this would have been one of the best movies of the summer. | Matthew F. Newlin