A Perfect Getaway (2009)
Reviewed by Heather Buckley
Starring Steve Zahn, Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant, Kiele Sanchez
Directed by David Twohy
A Perfect Getaway is about a trail, a serial killer, and a bucket of red herrings.
Cliff and Cydney (Zahn and Jovovich), on their honeymoon in Hawaii, are determined to hike one of the jungle trails. While buying two backpacking permits an ominous local eyes Cliff’s dough -- Are they in for trouble and misadventures? What creep would stand in the middle of their heavenly bliss? And so begins the whodunnit, don’t-you-look-awfully-suspicious-to-throw-the-audience-off-the-trail game that is A Perfect Getaway. Fans of Murder by Death look no further than this opus. But where were we, yes the newlyweds ...
Along the way our happy couple meet a hippy girl and a surly, burly aggro-man on the side of the road. This well-worn couple was just married and need a ride hither and dale, but hey that didn’t work out for Marilyn Burns and so it’s not working here either. Cliff and Cydney drive off without the hitchhikers towards the trail.
Upon their arrival a pack of girls are trying to get cell phone reception. They are like, totally blown away because there is a killer on the loose and like, one of their Dad’s wants them to go home. OMG! The murderer the girls were yapping about just happened to kill a couple on their honeymoon and wrenched out their teeth. Cliff and Cydney are on their honeymoon! Cliff and Cydney keep bumping into sinister people with sinister notions! Will they turn back? Never say die (except in this one sentence).
They press on only to meet Tim ("Deadwood"’s own Timothy Olyphant) an ex-marine with an endless supply of self-aware quips (hello Scream) and his backwoods babe Gina (Kiele Sanchez of "Lost"). But there’s that damned hippy couple again. Are they being stalked? And Tim and Gina are acting all weird and spooky. A picture of the killer emerges via cell phone technology. Looks to be a male and a female. Who will survive and what will be left of them? Cliff? Cydney? Nick? Gina? The Hippies? Colonel Mustard?
Structurally A Perfect Getaway seems to have no acts and unfolds at its own pace. The score is pretty generic, but it does its job in a pinch. The photography is nice -- shooting in a jungle location can come with various visual successes (see: Jungle Holocaust for a murky mess of a job and John Toll’s work on The Thin Red Line (1998) who did it right. And then you have all that is Herzog --- well you get my point.).
In an effort to put CGI everywhere in films, the Hawaiian backdrop is green screened; it looks obvious in some sequences and distracts. But, and I was told by Twohy, Puerto Rico offers better tax breaks than Hawaii. So you shoot where you can on a limited budget. Bring me Hawaii on budget. And there you have it.
The characters are one-dimensional, but Zahn is solid. Jovovich is beautiful, almost playing a Jennifer Tilly role, but not as convincing, much too arch. The rest of the cast doesn’t have much to do and Olyphant has the best lines, if you can even call them “best.” Passable “at best.” Maybe. This is pretty light fare, but it does not pretend to be anything but a populist popcorn flick shot to be shown in the latter part of the summer. That being said, it could have been shorter. 90 minutes, with a little more mayhem, would have done the trick.
Aside from that, it looks big budget (sans the green screening, but it’s hard to get that right on any budget). Aerial shots. Fancy locations. Milla Jovovich. What is interesting, you can see coin on screen, but A Perfect Getaway was shot outside the studio system giving director David Twohy (so he told us at the junket) the freedom to put exactly what he wrote up there. So this is his vision and, thankfully, not some neutered PG-13 drivel.
Were I to drop the twist, I’d be bound, gagged and shot, but let it be known it happens about 60 percent into the movie and would probably not kill the flick if it leaked. It’s not just about the twist; more films should take heed of that -- that means you, Shyamalan. But Bryan Singer can keep his twist in Usual Suspects (I did guess that one in the first 5 mins though, A Perfect Getaway is better at playing poker). Watch out for the killers smoking crack (I am not making this up) and a big backstory montage sequence. In case you did not get it. In case you did not think they could be that evil. CRACK. Dude, we get it.
Should you see it? Maybe. It’s far too polished for me, and I feel its lack of structure and runtime hindered its pacing. Some of the comedy is totally groan-worthy, but hey the mixed crowd of critics and civilians were cheering and laughing. But, if you don’t give me real characters, at least keep me extremely entertained; I was not that amused. It’s also not really a horror film. So maybe just go to support Twohy. He did write Warlock 1 and 2 after all. That's saying something!
In the end it’s just not my kind of flick; I watch I Stand Alone for my Sunday matinees. I just went to a screening of Under the Rainbow on VHS, projected in some basement on St. Marks (I paid 5 dollars for that). I have been known to champion Transylvania 6-500, so why are you even listening to me? “Get away from me kids, you bother me.”
2 1/2 out of 5
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