A Perfect Getaway (2009)


I’m not quite sure what kind of movie the filmmakers behind A Perfect Getaway were trying to make. Is it supposed to be a slow burning horror film? A plot twist filled mystery thriller mixed with a bizarre comedic element? A beginners guide to screenplay structure? Or maybe an excuse for the cast and crew to get a free trip to Hawaii? Me thinks a little of everything. In any event, A Perfect Getaway is a mixed bag of good and bad, but damn does it look pretty.

We’re introduced to Cliff and Cydney, a newlywed couple spending their honeymoon island hopping in beautiful Hawaii. While on a hiking trip to the perfect beach, they run into two couples. One is fun loving and eccentric, the other is aggressive and threatening. Meanwhile news breaks of a pair of murderers knocking off vacationing couples. Paranoia and plot twists ensue until the bloody battle that is the final act.

Cliff and Cydney show up immediately and spend over half of the screen time basically getting to know these people. Normally I find horror films that concentrate on character development with a nice payoff rather satisfying. But here’s the tricky part; You have to actually make the characters likable and want us to spend all this time with them. Cliff is painfully socially inept, while Cydney is that peppy love addicted, stage five clinger…you know…the one you pray you’ll never end up with because she’ll turn your life into an endless nightmare of “What are you thinking about?”, “What did you do all day?”, and the ever popular “Did you miss me?”. Sends chills down my spine just thinking about it. These are not the people that I want to get to know. These are the people that I make fun of when I see them holding hands on the street and then tell my girlfriend that I’ll dump her should she ever pull that shit.

If the goal was to create the most irritatingly sweet couple as possible then Mila Jovovich and Steve Zahn pass with flying colors. The scene stealer here though is Timothy Olyphant playing essentially the same character he always plays. A slightly annoying yet somewhat charming sociopath with a sense of humor who may or may not be suffering from a mild form of mental retardation. I’m quite grateful for the presence of him and Kiele Sanchez as his skinny dipping girlfriend. They were able to take some of the screen time away from Cliff the thimble and his tumor Cydney. Unfortunately, the lack of Ms. Marley Shelton is a loss for the film. She plays the female half of the third, slightly deranged, couple and completely disappears into the role as does Chris Hemsworth as her better half.

On a technical level, A Perfect Getaway is a crowning achievement. The cinematography by D.P. Mark Plummer is nothing short of beautiful as he perfectly captures the Hawaiian landscape. Director David Twohy knows how to stage an expertly paced and tense finale. I was given exactly the action packed ending that I had anticipated after all of waiting. Unfortunately, Mr. Twohy is not as good a screenwriter as he is a director. His uneven script is full of achingly predictable plot twists that you’re guaranteed to see coming.

At one point, Cliff and Nick (Olyphant) discuss Cliff’s job as a screenwriter. During this conversation, Nick discusses having taken a writing class one time and how you always need to have obvious red herrings and a plot twist at the end of the second act. It was the conversation alone that ruined any chance of me being surprised by the reveal. Not only do you immediately stop suspecting any of the red herrings, you also know EXACTLY when the twist was coming. Did Twohy just assume the audience would forget about this conversation? Or did he think it was clever to tell the us when to expect the twist and hope that it would be shocking enough to still rock their faces off (it’s not…)

Despite the agonizingly irritating main characters and the predictable twists and turns, A Perfect Getaway is a beautiful film to look at with an edge of your seat final act and overall strong acting.
Despite the agonizingly irritating main characters and the predictable twists and turns, A Perfect Getaway is a beautiful film to look at with an edge of your seat final act and overall strong acting.