Writer/Director David Twohy sure knows his way around a high concept. His previous directorial efforts Pitch Black, and the Darren Aronofsky scripted, Below demonstrate him to be a master of creating tension in small spaces. The man knows how to develop unconventional characters and wring every ounce of tension out of a situation. Of course, when he is given a bigger palette the results are more mixed. Sometimes you get The Arrival, sometimes you get Chronicles of Riddick.
His latest film, A Perfect Getaway falls into the latter category. Fortunately it is also his most satisfying entry into the more-than-one-primary-location genre of filmmaking, at least until the final 20 minutes. More after the jump:
A Perfect Getaway tells the story newlyweds Cliff and Cydney Anderson (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich) who, while backpacking through the wilds of the Hawaii, run into several groups of mysterious strangers after hearing news of serial killers on a nearby island. This being a thriller, one of the three primary couples is out for blood.
A Perfect Getaway is a very, very pretty movie. So pretty that even without the whodunit murder plot it might be worth watching. The greens of the foliage pop with vivid colors, and the idyllic, endless blue of the ocean is captured in magnificent detail. The natural beauty of the island state is often hypnotic thanks to Mark Plummer’s exquisite cinematography. It’s hard to believe that his most significant previous credits were for the 2001’s sitcom-esque Freddie Prinze Jr. vehicle Head over Heels and 2006’s dreary grey Pulse remake. Jovovich, Kiele Sanchez, and Marley Shelton aren’t too hard to look at either.
The acting is solid. Zahn gets to play outside of his loser/schlub sandbox and does a very solid job as the screenwriter-cum-detective at the center of the film’s narrative. Jovovich, who is usually little more than eye candy gets a great monologue that starts sexy and ends like a Chuck Palahniuk short. Equally good is Chris Hemsworth as an appropriately intimidating as a thuggish backpacker. But the real surprise of the picture is Timothy Olyphant. I’ve never been a fan of Olyphant. The man always seems to look either awkward or bland. I’ve seen him in probably a dozen films, ten of which I had completely forgotten he was in until I checked his IMDb. With the help of Twohy he becomes both intimidating and funny, scary and naïve. It’s probably the best work of his career to date.
Unfortunately, all of the pretty cinematography and above par acting is almost ruined by a disastrous third act twist that involves the longest flashback I have ever seen. Seriously. The plot stops dead right before the climax so that we can be treated to a twenty minute black and white recap of the previous hour of runtime. We flash back to literally almost every single scene in the movie. Worse yet is the fact that the entire flashback is completely unnecessary because all of the vital information can be inferred from things we already saw within the text of the narrative. It’s like Twohy gave up on making the smart, well-written adult thriller he had been crafting for the previous 70 minutes and decided to just finish the movie up in the style of a “last time on Law & Order” style. The film doesn’t just jump the shark, it doubles back and runs it over with a speed boat, twice.
Still, when the movie returns from idiot-vision recap mode, it does play out in a fairly exciting manner. It’s a testament to Twohy’s filmmaking prowess that the picture remains even vaguely watchable after the twenty-minute train wreck of a reveal, but somehow I found myself almost fully engaged by the final moments. And that might be the best trick of all.
The DVD includes the theatrical cut and an unrated cut. It’s always nice to have both versions on one disc but this does not excuse the complete lack of other special features.
If you decide to watch this film and hit the scene skip button as soon as the flashback starts you’ll probably have a pretty good time. if you don’t you’ll either die laughing, or just get really pissed off.
The Film: 5.9/10
The DVD: 4.0/10