Monday, August 10, 2009

Milla Jovovich and Steve Zahn play newlyweds in "Pitch Black" writer & director David Twohy's "The Perfect Getaway" (***1/2out of ****) who encounter peril in paradise on the picture post card Hawaiian island of Kauai when they learn that homicidal maniacs are on the prowl. This scenic thriller boasts one of the best twists that you will see, but perhaps won't see until it has surprised you. The casting of Jovovich and Zahn—as unlikely a couple as you might imagine—is perfect when you consider the other two couples that co-star with them.

Our newlyweds fly to Hawaii to hike to a remote beach. Before they arrive at their destination, Cydney(Milla Jovovich of the "Resident Evil" movies) and Cliff (Steve Zahn of "Strange Wilderness), learn that a murderous couple has slain one couple and the local police are hot on their trail. The two couples that they wind up contending with behave like natural born killers, and Twohy keeps you guessing until the last quarter-hour reveals who poses the genuine threat. "The Perfect Getaway" goes against the grain by creating suspense and tension in wide-open spaces during daylight hours the same way that Alfred Hitchcock did in his classic Cary Grant movie "North By Northwest." Sadly, "The Perfect Getaway" isn't entirely perfect owing to a last minute flaw in the plot that is never adequately resolved. Nevertheless, if you're searching for an intelligent, white-knuckled exercise in suspense, "The Perfect Getaway" is the movie that you need to getaway and watch. Thriller chillers like "The Perfect Getaway" thrive on red herrings. These cleverly crafted narrative ploys are designed to mislead viewers into believing that the people who look suspicious really are suspicious. Twohy opens the action with video sequences from our couple's wedding with their many friends wishing them well for the future. The scene shifts then to Cydney and Cliff cruising along carefree in their jeep while Cydney shoots a video of them with their Sony HDT camcorder. Our unsuspecting couple have decided to hike through the lush Hawaiian wilderness and during a helicopter ride, they choose their destination. They stock up on provisions at a local store and wheel away ready to go. A discarded newspaper caught under their front tire contains a front page story about a murdered couple for our benefit. As our heroes ride through the rural beauty, they spot another couple walking along the road. As it turns out, hitchhikers Cleo (Chris Hemsworth) and Kale (Marley Shelton), aren't exactly in route for the same destination. Initial misgivings about picking up hitchhikers make our heroes reconsider their offer to give them a ride. They are ready to ditch this duo, but then have second thoughts and agree to take them. Kale decides that he doesn't want to ride with them because he doesn't like their attitude towards he and his girlfriend. Everything about this sleazy looking couple, however, gives off bad vibes, and Cydney and Cliff are relieved when they refuse to ride with them.

No sooner have our heroes gotten onto the trail than they run into another equally suspicious couple that literally wear signs around their necks that they could be the murderers. Nick (Timothy Olyphant of "Hitman") smiles far too often and concocts tall tales about his military exploits. He carries weapons that make Cliff's skin crawl and later he pokes fun at Cliff's fear. Nick's Southern girlfriend Gina (Kiele Sanchez), reinforces the anxieties that our couple have about them. Nick loses Cliff in the woods as they stalk for a goat for an evening meal, and Nick returns with the carcass draped across his shoulders. He deposits in front of Sanchez and she guts the carcass and removes the entrails. At this point, Cydney and Cliff are worrying that Nick and Sanchez are going to eviscerate them, too. Twohy sweetens up the story with moments of spine-tingling suspense that will make you squirm uncomfortably. He makes Cydney and Cliff appear helpless in comparison to the other two couples and our heroes are sweating with considerable anxiety.

About an hour into this cat & mouse exercise in melodrama, the killers unveil themselves and our heroes have to think fast and take action even faster. There is a glitch near the end that mars this otherwise first-rate yarn but it may not bother you as much as it troubled me. Mystery fans should enjoy this nervy epic that makes the most of our own fears about evil people. Twohy does a good job of stringing audiences along until the big reveal and then he slams the action into high gear. You have to wonder if the murderous couple are going to triumph as is the case in so many modern horror stories like "The Descent." Prepare to gnaw your knuckles if you watch "The Perfect Getaway."

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