By Brian Orndorf
Writer/director David Twohy has a lot of tricks up his sleeve with the thriller â€œA Perfect Getaway,â€ but his ambition is far more compelling than his execution. A cringingly self-aware, painfully verbose, and somewhat smug motion picture, â€œGetawayâ€ is itching to keep audiences guessing, but itâ€™s far more successful at putting viewers to sleep.
Off on a honeymoon in Hawaii, screenwriter Cliff (Steve Zahn) and babyfevered Cydney (Milla Jovovich) are looking for adventure, seeking out a special trail to a secret beach for excitement. Hitting the mountainside, the couple runs into outdoorsy superman Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and his girlfriend Gina (Kiele Sanchez). Striking up a tentative friendship, Nick wins over the gang with his wild stories of near-death experiences and military history. Learning of the presence of a killer on the island, Cliffâ€™s paranoia kicks into overdrive, leading him to suspect Nick and Gina of wrongdoing; but another couple (Marley Shelton and Chris Hemsworth) nearby fits the profile, leaving Cliff and Cydney eager to leave the beach before they become the next two victims.
â€œGetawayâ€ resembles a quickie writing sample meant to capture studio interest with its incredible attention to structure, character, and surprises. Perhaps this is Twohy scaling back his career after hitting a ground rule double with â€œThe Chronicles of Riddickâ€ five years ago, anxious to return to the comfort of a lower budget and reduced expectation to allow some breathing room for invention. To the filmmakerâ€™s credit, â€œGetawayâ€ is always thinking, constantly scoping out angles to fiddle with to hold the viewer in a state of confusion. What sours the milk is Twohyâ€™s apparent cleverness, which he unleashes with â€œGetaway,â€ permitting his own interests to seal off the thrills and chills. Murder has never been so tiresome to observe.
By making Cliff a screenwriter and Nick his in-the-know muse, Twohy sets up a scheme of misdirection, symbolism, and foreshadowing, having the characters complain about Hollywood clichÃ© while Twohy twists the knobs and pulls the levers, submerging the picture in red herrings (Nick calls them â€œred snappersâ€) and suspicion. Itâ€™s an irritating post-modern way to conduct business, but Twohy seems proud of his architecture, providing a languid pace of monologuing to keep the suspense at a simmer. Unfortunately, the stalling kills any and all momentum, turning would-be cutthroat danger into a tedious war of words, flung from fantastical stories of accomplishment. Itâ€™s Twohyâ€™s stab at thick characterization to fan off the scent of accusation, and it turns this thriller into a chore to watch.
Even if one buys into the molasses organization of â€œGetawayâ€ and the campy performances from all the actors, thereâ€™s still a major bit of business reserved for the last act thatâ€™s unsettling in its obviousness. Students of thriller cinema will be way ahead of the director by the time the payoff strolls around, and something tells me Twohy welcomes this. Suddenly â€œGetawayâ€ goes from Hawaiian serenity (gorgeous locales used here) to film-student hysteria, with metaphorical usage of split-screen, graphic violence, and hacky editing bursts to shake the film out of its coma. â€œGetawayâ€ takes an inordinate amount of time to explain its central twist, and I remain unconvinced anyone will care. Twohyâ€™s so enamored with his constipated, methodical approach, he orphans the necessary shock value of the film, robbing his movie of its essential intensity.