David Twohy’s A Perfect Getaway is in no way what its title suggests. It may be perfectly awful, but that isn’t what its double-meaning title is aiming for. What we’ve got here is a trashy thriller that takes most of its length to get to the level of enjoyable trash. Most of the film’s energy is spent trying to prove that it’s more than a trashy thriller—with an occasional time-out to undeservedly pat itself on the back for being clever. It’s a film where its only possible identity lies in it having a twist revelation. The problem is that there’s really only one possible twist, making the revelation something of a nonstarter in terms of shock. Achieving a ho-hum level of “Yeah, that’s what I thought” from viewers isn’t exactly an accomplishment of note.
The film concerns characters presented to us as a honeymooning couple—Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich)—who set out for a hidden-beach hike on one of the smaller Hawaiian islands (played with great conviction by Puerto Rico). On the hike they cross paths with a couple presented to us as a shifty pair of hitchhikers, Kale (Chris Hemsworth, Star Trek) and Cleo (Marley Shelton, W.). No sooner have Cliff and Cydney divested themselves of the sketchy duo than we learn of a gruesome killing committed by a man and woman in Honolulu. Since this is a thriller, it’s apparent that the killers will be on Cliff and Cydney’s island in short order—in fact, they’re probably there already. It’s no surprise then that Cliff and Cydney meet up with another couple—Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (TV actress Kiele Sanchez)—who are presented as a little too friendly. Suspicion sets in, as suspicion is wont to do in such movies. The question then arises: Which couple is other than they seem?
Without giving too much away, I’ll note that it’s not that hard to work out. Now, it might be giving too much away to address the question of whether or not the film cheats to make its supposed surprise work. With this in mind, you might want to skip to the next paragraph if you plan on seeing A Perfect Getaway (don’t do it) and feel like giving Mr. Twohy and company a shot at pulling the palm fronds over your eyes. So does the film cheat? The answer to that depends entirely on whether or not you’re willing to accept the concept of method-acting maniacs. If you don’t, you’re apt to think certain conversations that take place between a certain couple are pretty darned hard to believe.
It really doesn’t matter if you think the film is clever. The film is happy to think that for you. And it will go out of its way to sum things up and show you just how clever it was—and just how unimaginative you were for not seeing the twist without it having to show you. It’s an attitude that’s kind of insulting when you think about it. Worse, it’s an attitude A Perfect Getaway has no business copping.
The unfortunate thing is that the whole film could have been amusingly gory trash with over-the-top performances. Instead the movie offers an interminable buildup to some fairly tame mayhem, which in turn offers a smattering of unintentional laughs and plot points brought home to roost in a wholly predictable manner. And due to the film’s mystery structure, our resident psychos only get to play psycho after they’re thoroughly unmasked (never mind that they were pretty fairly obvious from the onset and certainly so by the midway point). The lesson to be learned here is simple: If you’re going to make a cheesy psycho-killer thriller, just go ahead and embrace the Roquefort. Pretending it’s anything else is only annoying—and not much fun. Rated R for graphic violence, language, including sexual references, and some drug use.