A Perfect Getaway (2009)
“6 Strangers. 2 Killers. No Getting Away.”
Director: David Twohy
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Steve Zahn, Timothy Olyphant
Synopsis: Two pairs of lovers on a Hawaiian vacation discover that psychopaths are stalking and murdering tourists on the islands.
If I ever make a movie (don’t worry, the chances are slim), I, like writer and director David Twohy, am going to set it somewhere like Hawaii. The locales are stunning, as evidenced by cinematographer Mark Plummer’s lingering shots of lush, towering hills and swooping valleys, and the sea is an achingly beautiful shade of deepest azure. Fincher can have Sweden and Massachusetts, I’ll take Hawaii any day — I probably just won’t go there on honeymoon after watching this tight little thriller, which is in danger at times of feeding us too many red herrings (or ‘snappers,’ as one character insists they are called) for its own good.
Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich play Cliff and Cidney, a nerdy couple honeymooning in Hawaii. We first meet Cliff and Cydney as they drive along in a rented jeep. Cydney is lying with her head in Cliff’s lap, filming him on a hand-held camcorder and questioning him about how he got a scar on his chin. It’s a seemingly insignificant moment which actually has a significance that only becomes apparent after the film has finished. A Perfect Getaway is filled with such camouflaged clues as to what is really going on as it plays a game of cat-and-mouse with the audience. Cliff impulsively stops to offer a ride to Kale and Cleo, a pair of hitch-hikers (Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton), but then has second thoughts when he sees just what a brooding muscle-mountain Kale is. Later, as the couple negotiate a tricky trail to a secluded beach, they run across Nick, a charismatic former US marine who, when Cliff reveals he is a screenwriter, regales the couple with tales of his exploits. Nick is a hard man to kill, according to his free-spirited girlfriend Gina (Kiele Sanchez), thanks to the metal plate in his head, the consequence of shrapnel in Iraq.
All would be idyllic were it not for reports of the brutal murder of one hitch-hiking couple by another, something which puts everyone on edge — and under suspicion. The moodily threatening Kale and Cleo, who appear to be following Cliff and Cydney seem the obvious suspects, but Nick proves to be an Alpha male with a worryingly quirky and faintly aggressive sense of humour that has the more docile Cliff worried.
A Perfect Getaway builds up a decent sense of paranoia as the couples draw nearer to the secluded beach and further away from other hikers, but sooner or later it has to play its hand, and when it does you can’t help feeling a little cheated. Although a summary of everything that has taken place up to that point confirms that, while Twohy isn’t exactly cheating his audience, it’s fair to say that he isn’t exactly honest and asks us to accept an undeniably far-fetched scenario. Once the twist is revealed, A Perfect Getaway changes character in much the same way as its antagonist, changing from a psychological thriller into a stalk-and-slash thriller. It’s something of a jolt, particularly as Twohy’s style of direction suddenly assumes all the characteristics of a five-year-old overdosing on fizzy drinks.
For all its flaws, A Perfect Getaway provides a decent — if unambitious — level of entertainment, although the twist isn’t exactly unforeseeable, like me, you might well consider it early on only to dismiss the idea as simply too implausible…