Writer-director David Twohy’s (Pitch Black, Chronicles of Riddick) entertaining thriller may not be winning any awards in the near future, but it is an amiable, light spin on tired genre clichés. Exoticism is the order of the day, with a narrative following newlyweds Cydney (Milla Jovovich) and Cliff (Steve Zahn), who have traveled to Hawaii for their sun-kissed honeymoon.
However, among the grass skirts and widescreen vistas is a thrilling horror plot, namely a killer couple prowling the islands for other conjugal victims. Cydney and Cliff are on full alert, as each new development on their vacation provides yet another mysterious couple to feed the flames of paranoia.
For the most part, the film takes great joy in wringing tension out of the holidaying experience, as the couple indulge in the unique sense of security afforded by being away from home. Picking up hitch-hikers, crossing sheer verges, skinny-dipping in a warm spring, even shopping in a local store are mined for red herrings and knowing nods to the audience.
Before long, the plot unveils a glut of potential candidates for who the killers are, including the grungey, dysfunctional Kale (Chris Hemsworth) and Cleo (Marley Shelton), and the earthy, charismatic Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez). It’s an obvious, almost bland set-up, with a twist that, while admittedly unconventional, can be spotted a mile off.
However, evidence indicates that Twohy and co were in on it, and sought to make the proceedings charmingly fun, if not the least bit groundbreaking. The cast, crystallised into the central ensemble of Zahn, Jovovich, Sanchez and Olyphant, have a casual, ever-so-slightly campy chemistry that stays on the right side of enthusiasm, and never feels calculated.
Likewise, Twohy’s script telegraphs a suitable amount of self-awareness, without seeming cynical or overly parodic, using Cliff’s background as a screenwriter as a (heavy-handed) excuse to fill scenes with broad references to narrative structure, and authorial sleights of hand.
The film manages to be laid-back, economical – a light, 98 minute snack – yet still indulges in long scenes of inter-character banter, with Olyphant’s long-form, barrel-chested monologues about his adventures as an ‘American Jedi’ (including the discovery of a Middle Eastern dictator’s Silver Age comic collection) providing intermittent comedy. The final-third shift into a slasher flick is clumsy – all manipulative shocks and convoluted tension – but some flashy, darkly humorous gore, and a flat-out bonkers flashback sequence, filmed in stark Redcam monochrome, keep the entertainment factor going until a suitably convoluted, corny conclusion.
The end result is like a spunky mix of Hostel and Scream, with a dash of Natural Born Killers, starring disarmingly beautiful (and bronzed) actors, set in a gorgeous tropical climes and shot like a travel advert (the irony is, however, that the film was shot in Puerto Rico for the tax breaks, and the Hawaiian backgrounds are all VFX trickery).
This is utterly wafer-thin fluff – thinking too much, trying to retroactively fit its twist into the film’s earlier moments, or discern motives and intention, will cause the whole thing to dissolve into nothingness. A Perfect Getaway is a trashy, brain-relaxing treat, with enough frills, thrills and quirks to avoid inducing idiocy, or slipping into a coma.