‘A Perfect Getaway’: B-movie mentality adds the perfect touch

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, August 6, 2009 9:23pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The spirit of B-movie-making lives on in director David Twohy, a furtive Hollywood figure who occasionally makes a knockout of a genre film (“Pitch Black” and “The Arrival,” for instance).

Case in point: Twohy’s new one, “A Perfect Getaway.” It has no shortage of cheese, but there’s a storytelling logic at work that makes it all incredibly satisfying to watch, even when you don’t know whether to gasp or laugh. Which is frequently.

The film is structured as a guessing game, which somehow doesn’t feel like a gimmick, even though it is. We’re on the verdant Hawaiian island of Kauai, where a fabled beach has beckoned a honeymooning couple, Cliff, as played by Steve Zahn, and Cydney, played by Milla Jovovich.

Since the beach is inaccessible except by foot or kayak, Cliff and Cydney will trek for a day and a night. Really nothing to worry about, even with that bothersome news story about a young couple murdered in Honolulu the night before.

Ah, but is the killer also on the trail? Two other footloose couples fit the bill: adventurers (Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez) and menacing weirdos (Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton).

The TV ads make this look like another slasher flick, maybe along the lines of “Hostel” or other recent movies about vacationers in trouble. But “A Perfect Getaway” takes its time, and all the real mayhem is stored up for the final 20 minutes or so.

The script has its share of red herrings, but we’re given fair warning: one of the characters is a screenwriter, and the proper construction of a screenplay is under discussion during the hike.

Twohy has set himself an intriguing challenge, which you can appreciate even more after the film is over and you try to re-trace the steps in your head. The stakes aren’t profound — anxiety about strangers, jungle survival skills — but the execution of this pulp material is terrific.

With the exception of “Resident Evil” star Jovovich — definitely someone you’d bet on to survive in the wild — the cast is offbeat for this kind of thing; zany Steve Zahn doesn’t seem like an automatic choice, for instance.

The standout is “Deadwood” star Timothy Olyphant, sometimes a hard fit for roles, given his combination of sneaky humor and brawn. Here he’s exactly right.

Trying to guess the culprit in this movie is a good time, but it’s not what “A Perfect Getaway” is about. So even if somebody spoils the movie for you, get ready for a well-tooled ride anyway.

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