A quick and dirty, flawed little noir with the glam islander trappings of both Polynesia-bound Survivor and the Hawaii-lensed Lost, A Perfect Getaway resembles its colliding characters: the bourgeois tourists who believe they can swoop in and grab a little bit of paradise, scot-free, and the seedy predators who gravitate toward the same fantasy isles, also drawn by the promise of beauty and freedom. Likewise, despite its low-budg production and genre writing, the aspirational A Perfect Getaway rises slightly above its drive-in roots, thanks to strong performances and an unsettling red herring or two.
Just remember to wedge A Perfect Getaway alongside Hostel, Ruins, Turistas and even The Hills Have Eyes in the now fully resurgent tourist thriller-horror genre. In all these flicks, the natives are restless, and the vulnerable, affluent, often clueless American tourist to watch him- or herself, big time, in an extremely hostile post-9/11 world. Getaway is a lot less gory and somewhat more Hitchcockian in its mind games than the gauntlet-throwing Hostel, but it wouldn’t be out of place on a trash-cinema triple bill with the aforementioned.
We enter Getaway via videocam images of Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich) and their archetypal newlywed banter. The couple has the cash and the gorgeous, lush island of Kauai at their disposal. Their target: an idyllic, isolated beach, accessible by way of a single trail or by kayak and canoe.
But all is not right in paradise: Cliff and Cydney almost immediately clash with the too-intense burner-hippie couple Cleo and Kale (Marley Shelton and Chris Hemsworth), who are hitchhiking to the very same beach. Further up the road and down the trail, they also encounter Nick (Timothy Olyphant), an ex-soldier back from the Middle East with a plate in his head, a penchant for big knives and even bigger fantasies about writing for the movies, and Gina (Kiele Sanchez), his girlfriend, who is great at gutting the wild animals Nick kills. Quite a team. And oh, yes, a newlywed couple has apparently been found murdered on Oahu, and the killers are on the loose and likely headed to Kauai.
It’s enough to make a newlywed want succumb to paranoia and hightail it to Cancun instead. Fortunately, Getaway picks up and takes off once the major -- and somewhat unbelievable -- plot twist is dealt with, and director-writer David Twohy, whose best film remains the sleeper sci-fi thriller Pitch Black, gets out of his own way -- there’s a particularly awful moment of contrived writing to vault over -- and lets the momentum of the narrative and the dynamism of Jovovich and the always-excellent Zahn take over.
Traveler beware: A Perfect Getaway is far from perfect, but it’s a decent bit of escapism if one keeps one’s expectations to a minimum -- which is always a good thing when it comes to trawling tourist thriller-horror.
A Perfect Getaway opens in Bay Area theaters today, Aug. 7.