‘A Perfect Getaway’ With Steve Zahn, Milla Jovovich Delivers Thrills

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Average: 3.8 (4 votes)
HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – David Twohy’s “A Perfect Getaway” is a surprisingly effective thriller, featuring good-to-great performances from Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant, Steve Zahn, and Kiele Sanchez, and a taut, interesting screenplay with enough twists and turns to keep the audience entertained for its scant running time.

In a season that has been dominated by effects-heavy and usually over-long blockbusters, it’s almost refreshing to see an old-fashioned thriller like “A Perfect Getaway,” a film that doesn’t turn the genre on its head as much as just try to deliver as good a time as possible within its constructs.

Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich).
Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich).
Photo credit: Javier Pesquera and Rogue Pictures

“A Perfect Getaway” opens with home video footage shot at a wedding. Cut to Cliff & Cydney Anderson (Steve Zahn & Milla Jovovich), a young couple on their honeymoon on the beautiful island of Kaua’i. The couple is all smiles, driving a jeep through the brush and taking a helicopter ride. In the air, they spot a beach that can only be reached on foot or by kayak and agree to take the 3-day hike to get to it.

On their way to the trail, the Andersons run into another couple named Cleo & Kale (Marley Shelton & Chris Hemsworth). The drifter-looking hitchhikers are the opposite of the Andersons. He’s tattoo-ed. She wears dreadlocks. And the buttoned-up couple and the hippie one butt heads. Think Cleo & Kale will eventually end up on the same trail as our heroes? Don’t get ahead of the movie.

On the journey itself, Cliff & Cydney cross paths with the adventurous Nick & Gina (Timothy Olyphant of “Damages” and “Deadwood” & Kiele Sanchez of “Lost”). He claims to be a former soldier and happens to be tough enough to kill a goat for dinner while on the adventure. This is not your normal honeymoon.

Three couples. One trail. It’s not long before a gaggle of giggling girls tell our characters that there was a recent murder in Oahu where a man and woman killed a couple before hopping over to Kaua’i. Is one of the three beach-bound couples the killers? Which one? Are Nick’s stories true? Are Cydney’s? And what role do those hitchhikers play?

Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez).
Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez).
Photo credit: Javier Pesquera and Rogue Pictures

Twohy, the writer/director of “Pitch Black,” has a blast playing with his audience, dangling potential twists and turns in their face and enjoying every cliche of the genre. Cliff happens to be a screenwriter, which allows for tongue-in-cheek conversations about “red herrings” in which Twohy can wink at his own audience. He’s having a blast and it’s clearly infectious to his cast. Olyphant gives yet another charismatic, intriguing performance and Zahn is simply never bad. The ladies hold their own with these always-good actors.

Of course, any thriller with a big twist (that I think at least half the audiences will see coming from the first reel…I honestly did myself and the film holds up well even if you figure it out) needs to have a crazy final act. And “A Perfect Getaway” goes completely nutty.

After Twohy reveals his endgame, he goes off the rails like a kid in a thriller-making candy store. He uses different film stocks, freeze frames, flashbacks, and much more. What has been a relatively traditional thriller becomes something completely unique. It will likely turn off some audiences, but I found it refreshing to see something so weird it what is usually a predictable genre.

Not all of the final act decisions pay off. There are a series of flashbacks that fill in far more holes than they need to and try to develop characters in a way that Twohy simply didn’t need to do. Right when the film needs to be turned up to 11, Twohy pulls back and hurts his own climactic pacing.

Even the mistakes of the final act come from a filmmaker who refuses to stick purely to cliche or predictability. Twohy and his cast are clearly having a blast. Don’t be surprised if you do too.

‘A Perfect Getaway’ stars Steve Zahn, Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant, Kiele Sanchez, Chris Hemsworth, and Marley Shelton. It was written and directed by David Twohy. It opens on August 7th, 2009. It is rated R.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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