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Blu-ray Review: A Perfect Getaway

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A Perfect Getaway opens with a cliché I'd be happy to see die, a video montage of people at a wedding giving their well-wishes to the newlyweds Cliff and Cydney (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich). Intercut with the video we catch up with the newlyweds on their Hawaiian honeymoon. Everything appears to be idyllic in this Pacific Eden until word gets out that there's a killer couple out there knocking people off. This information arrives around the same time Cliff and Cydney meet two couples, Kale and Cleo (Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton), two other newlyweds with an off-putting air about them, and Nick and Gina (Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez), a former special ops man's man and his handy-with-a-knife girlfriend.

Or are they? Or are anyone? Who's who? Who are you? You may not be sure after the movie's frustrating second act twist that twists the film so hard it nearly breaks it. Fortunately the movie's thrilling third act, fun performers and beautiful scenery make the endeavor, while far from perfect, certainly entertaining.

The only thing stopping me from giving it a wholehearted endorsement is that damn twist. Alfred Hitchcock laid down a lot of brilliant ideas about how to execute a good thriller. He came up with the MacGuffin. He famously said, "Film your murders like love scenes, and film your love scenes like murders." One of his most acknowledged truisms was that the filmmaker should never, ever lie to his audience. Characters could lie to other characters, directors could misdirect the audience, even fool them, but they should never, ever lie.

I went back and watched A Perfect Getaway a second time because I felt certain that it had lied to me with its twist. It hadn't, and I will give writer/director David Twohy credit for that, but it still felt like a lie. For the sake of one reveal Twohy lets the tail wag the dog for the first hour and change of his film, and instead of surprising the audience it just makes them feel jerked around.

The twist is also a bust in that it comes in the shape of a flashback that lasts nearly ten minutes and shows the audience a much more interesting movie than the one they've been watching for the last hour. As proof of this, the last twenty minutes are full of wild action, exciting reversals, and a handful of big, fun moments. Giving the audience the information at the beginning that Twohy hides away for two-thirds of the movie would open up the film to be both a fun cat-and-mouse game as well as a potentially fascinating character study. Instead, it's an hour of shell game, an explosion of exposition, and twenty minutes of thrills, spills and kills.

Even the shell game has its moments, though. This is due largely to the cast, a cadre of charismatic character actors who seem to be having fun traipsing through the stunningly gorgeous Hawaiian landscape. Steve Zahn, an engaging scene-stealer usually relegated to comic relief and indie quirk, gets to chew some different kinds of scenery here, and acquits himself nicely. Timothy Olyphant exudes an excellent swagger, and uses it here to full effect. Although neither he nor Kiele Sanchez seem quite sure of what accent they're going for, they make for a fun, believable couple that's just this side of survivalist. And then there's Milla Jovovich. Is there another actress who throws herself into roles with the same insane gusto as Ms. Jovovich? She is, in a way, the female Christopher Walken. She appears to take whatever comes her way, the wackier the better, and even when the movies around her are awful (and lord, a large percentage of them are) she is unfailingly worth watching. This movie is no exception. When the script gets ludicrous she is right there with it, note for note, selling it like it was Chekhov and looking as gorgeous as the scenery around her while doing it.

And let's talk about that scenery. It's a Blu-ray like this that can really help show off the glories of this technology. The Hawaiian scenery looks absolutely stunning. The grand finale, set on a secluded beach and involving a waterfall, a cliff, and a sea cave, makes for some pretty spectacular viewing. Twohy uses the setting well, making the changing landscapes, weather patterns and vibrant colors of the locale help build the suspense.

Twohy's a yeoman director, cranking out better-than-average genre fair like Pitch Black, Below and The Arrival. Even with his missteps here he's crafted some solid suspense and good thrills. The Blu-ray comes with both the theatrical cut and the "unrated director's cut." I recommend the theatrical cut. I watched them both in close succession, and honestly the only things missing from the theatrical cut were little moments that were either annoying or superfluous and were rightly taken out. 

Although I cannot say I'd recommend it without reservations, if you're looking for a thriller with good acting and set pieces, and you don't mind if the film occasionally becomes too clever by half, then A Perfect Getaway should definitely sate your appetite.

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