Sunday, January 3, 2010

Thriller not "Perfect" but fun


A Perfect Getaway (2009) 
97 min., rated R.

Being dumped into the dog days of summer, “A Perfect Getaway” is an entertaining, shrewdly crafted thriller that comes across as a breath of fresh air. It’s played as one long guessing game that’s fun while it lasts and played well by its quartet of actors. Who is butchering all the newlyweds in Honolulu and making the headlines? “Nothing bad ever happens in Hawaii,” a character dares to say. Honeymooning on the island, giddy newlyweds Cydney (Milla Jovovich) and Cliff (Steve Zahn) embark on a hike to a beautiful beach, but while driving they stop for a suspiciously strange pair of hitchhikers, Cleo (Marley Shelton) and Kale (Chris Hemsworth). Later, they meet another friendly but vaguely suspicious man and woman, ex-military agent Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and twangy Gina (Kiele Sanchez), who are headed to the same beach. The killers are said to be a man and woman, so who might it be? 

Writer-director David Twohy (2004‘s “The Chronicles of Riddick”) tosses out sly clues in the four interesting characters' chatty, self-aware dialogue in his twisty, post-”Scream” script. Someone warns the characters that there are “a lot of twists and turns ahead,” or when Gina says, twice, that Nick is “really hard to kill.” Or, when Nick and Cliff, a screenwriter, amusingly discuss the difference between a “red herring” and “red snapper.” In fact, the first hour is one big red herring in itself to set up for its big reveal. Although it cheats here and there, the plot turn works; as the viewer spends the first two acts going back and forth, accusing Cydney and Cliff, Gina and Nick, or Cleo and Kale, it doesn’t come out of left field. Too many of the ins and outs are eventually spoon-fed in an overextended sequence of noir-hued flashbacks, putting a halt on the momentum of the current action. Thank goodness, then, that the finale is a tense, exciting and expertly staged chase on the rocks and inside a cave, directed with a gleefully over-the-top verve that could have popped out of a bloody comic-book. The on-location shooting is also gorgeous, acting as an enticing counterpoint to a body-count picture.

Even for a formula picture, “A Perfect Getaway” gets away with strong performances from its hard-bodied cast of couples that keep it going. Timothy Olyphant is great at playing suspect, hinting enough menace and conveying a dangerous, all-kinds-of-crazy vibe while still coming across as an endearing guy to have around as Nick, the hard-to-kill “American Jedi.” His repeating of “outstanding” is especially amusing. Typically playing a goofball, Steve Zahn plays a number of degrees of hyper as uptight screenwriter Cliff. Milla Jovovich comes across as an entirely different person not playing the ass-kicking Alice from the “Resident Evil” movies and gets to hit more than one note here. Her Cydney is a sweet, down-to-earth Midwestern girl, but she also shares a frightening past with an ex-boyfriend, confiding in Gina. That leaves Kiele Sanchez, and she provides Gina with a half-adorable, half-capable side that keeps one questioning whether or not she is a killer. No, “A Perfect Getaway” is not perfect, but it's a solid getaway from the norm's “torture-porn.” 

Grade: B - 

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