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A Perfect Getaway (2009) Dir. David Twohy 25 August 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in Cinema Review.
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Debuting at the arse-end of a disappointing summer you might expect this paradise set murder mystery from Pitch Black creator David Twohy to be a waste of everyone’s considerable talents; however A Perfect Getaway proves that, for Twohy at least, bigger budget isn’t necessarily better and that he may just have another good Riddick film in him yet.

Milla Jovovich and Steve Zahn star as Cliff and Cydney, a honeymooning couple on a Hawaiian vacation when they discover that another couple of newlyweds have been murdered by a man and a woman on a nearby island. Deciding to push on with their dream holiday they come across two pairs of ‘unhinged’ lovers – Nick and Gina (Hitman’s Timothy Olyphant and Lost’s Kiele Sanchez) and Kale and Cleo (George Kirk himself Chris Hemsworth and Planet Terror’s Marley Shelton) leading Cliff and Cydney to question whether they could be the killers’ next targets.

A Perfect Getaway is David Twohy’s  first non-genre film as a director (though he did script The Fugitive and G.I.Jane) and he does an impressive job of making a lacklustre, slow build script based around one blindingly obvious twist into a taut and exciting piece of work. He clearly hasn’t lost any of the visual flair he demonstrated so effectively in Pitch Black (used expertly to create an otherworldly feel) but which was entirely absent from its over-reaching follow up. Creative set-pieces, a nice split screen chase and no-nonsense choices in the editing room are let down slightly by a bewilderingly long and pointless flashback just over an hour in that hammers the twist over the audience’s head enough times it’s a wonder there aren’t more walking out of the cinema with concussion.

The slow-build/climactic chase structure of the script works well within the confines of the film’s 95 minutes. The problem however is some decidedly dodgy dialogue and a Scream-esque attempt to be postmodern that falls flat on its face, giving any viewer that pays attention to choice hints like ‘act two twist’ and ‘red herring’ no problem in working out exactly where the film is heading. There are very few ‘twist’ films that live up to their attempts to wrong foot the audience (The Usual Suspects and The Crying Game being the best modern examples) and A Perfect Getaway completely disappoints in this respect with canyon sized plot holes and early conversations between characters that make no sense once the twist is revealed, however there’s enough good going on around the centrepiece to forgive its rotten core.

The leads are perfectly watchable, Timothy Olyphant in particular steals every scene he’s in as the former special ops soldier/shark fisherman/screenwriter Nick whose tall tales seem too extravagant to believe, but Hemsworth and Shelton are little more than arbitrary caricatures, with surprisingly little screentime, who serve no purpose other than to throw the viewer off the scent. Zahn and Jovovich seem like an odd pairing initially but do well throughout as the on-edge couple, coming into their own when the film switches gears.

Although it might not be the best advert for Hawaii the film is shot beautifully by Mark Plummer, perfectly capturing the feel of paradise even after the descent into hell but the score is forgettable, default Hollywood thriller fare. Despite a disappointing centrepiece twist; good performances and impressive direction from genre veteran Twohy raise A Perfect Getaway to the level of an unexpected treat and prove there’s still something to look forward to from a promised return to Riddick’s small-scale roots.

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