“A Perfect Getaway” is essentially one big red herring, flopping around on an idyllic Hawaiian beach, desperately trying to call attention to itself.
Everyone’s a suspect and no one’s a suspect, and writer-director David Twohy’s raison d’etre with this thriller — aside from jolting us, of course — is to mess with our brains and keep us guessing until he reveals his Big Twist. It’s not as earth-shattering as “Bruce Willis is actually dead” but it’s a pretty good one, and it’ll make you go back and think twice about what the characters did and said to make sure it all makes sense.
It does, but it’s also a gimmick, and a self-conscious one at that.
One of the travelers on this supposedly perfect island vacation keeps talking about screenwriting devices like red herrings (though he mistakenly calls them red snappers) and second-act twists. This is not nearly as cute as Twohy (“Pitch Black,” “The Chronicles of Riddick”) seems to think.
But you could just ignore all that, though, and give into the many B-movie conventions “A Perfect Getaway” has to offer: skeevy hitchhikers and strangers in the jungle, skinny dipping and girl-on-girl fistfights. It’s ridiculous but fun.
Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich co-star as blissful newlyweds Cliff and Cydney, a namby-pamby screenwriter and his overeager bride, who spend their honeymoon backpacking to a remote beach in Hawaii. Along the way they run into two other couples: Nick and Gina (Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez), who seem friendly enough if a bit trashy and brazen, and Kale and Cleo (Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton), who try to bum a ride in Cliff and Cydney’s Jeep but seem way too obviously unhinged.
All their paths repeatedly cross along scenic, treacherous hiking trails, with increasing tension. Adding to the danger: A young couple savagely killed some newlyweds in Honolulu recently, and now they’re on the loose.
And so it’s up to us to figure out who the killers might be, with Twohy yanking us in one direction or another. One character is carrying a parole officer’s business card in a backpack with the date of an upcoming appointment, for example; another is inordinately skilled at gutting and grilling a freshly slaughtered goat. Again, all silly, goosey fun.
But while “A Perfect Getaway” has its moments of suspense, it’s never truly frightening, even once the big reveal takes place and the bodies start stacking up. After toying with us, Twohy’s reliance on standard shootings and stabbings is really rather boring.
Olyphant and Sanchez have an appealing chemistry with each other, though, and add just the right amount of weirdness. He’s an ex-military man with tall tales of fighting in Iraq, she’s a twangy and slightly dangerous Southern girl who says lovingly of her man, “Yeah, he’s really hard to kill.”
Gee, what could that possibly mean?