Okay, here's the deal: it's late summer and I have not had a particularly great one, movie-wise. Matter of fact, I haven't seen a damn thing except for The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. And while that was entertaining enough, I would have hoped for more from Denzel, Travolta, and Tony Scott (director of my third all-time favorite movie, True Romance, but who has not done anything particularly mindblowing lately - I'm looking directly at you, Domino). Bottom line, even with all that A-list star power and budget, it was still just a glorified B-movie. Which is perfectly okay; I sometimes think that my favorite KIND of flicks are B-movies. The best of them seem to know exactly what they're setting out to do and then just go about doing it, and oftentimes are more successful in their ambitions than their higher profile brethren. A perfect example would be Cellular, I movie I absolutely and unequivocally loved. Great film? Not exactly - but a fun, enjoyable flick? Bet your ass it was. Not particularly realistic - but you didn't really question it while it was happening, since the pace was so strong that you were swept along into the story without having time to think about it.
I said all that to say this: A Perfect Getaway is one of the best B-movies I've seen come down the pike in some time, and even if I HAD seen Public Enemies or Up or Drag Me To Hell or any of the other flicks I really wanted to check out, I'm willing to bet that A Perfect Getaway would still have ended up being one of my summer season faves.
The story can be summed up pretty simply - newlyweds Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney Anderson (Milla Jovovich) have gone to honeymoon in Hawaii, and are going to hike around a secluded spot on the island of Maui. While there, they run into two other couples, one of whom (Marley Shelton and Chris Hemsworth) come across as unsavory and unpleasant almost immediately. The other couple, Nick (complete badass Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez), seem cool enough, but as Cliff and Cydney spend more time along the trail with them, they begin to seem. . .not quite right. Oh, and apparently there's been a rash of killings along the Hawaii islands, and the authorities believe the suspects have come to this part of Maui to continue their spree. Suspects who are described as one man and one woman, traveling as a couple. So the question is. . .who is the hunter and who is the hunted?
The real joy to be found in this movie is that it's not so much the simple premise, but how it's executed. Which is to say, with real skill and style and a great goddamn script by director David Twohy and the performances he gets out of his actors. Steve Zahn is a talented mofo and a truly funny dude, in my book. After Rescue Dawn and now this, though, it's obvious that if he wants to do more drama, he's certainly got it in him. His slightly nerdy Hollywood screenwriter (not "screenplay writer," if you please) provides a great foil for Olyphant's Iraq war vet, who projects sheer confidence and alpha dog cool. The interplay between these two characters, which provides a lot of entertainment during the story's build up (roughly the first two thirds of the movie), is fantastic and allows Twohy to indulge in a little meta-dissertation on the structure of screen thrillers, as Nick and Cliff discuss devices such as Act II twists and "red snappers." This is not Twohy being cute, however; he's a far more talented writer than that. This is him letting us know that HE knows we expect certain things, and that we will get them in due time, but since he's aware of that, he intends to subvert those expectations somewhat. Kind of like a deconstruction of suspense flicks while being a phenomenal example of the genre.
Getting back to the actors, Shelton and Hemsworth are menacing and creepy and quite good in their roles (I have to say that Marley Shelton is quite a better actress than I originally gave her credit for). The female counterparts to Cliff and Nick - Sanchez and Jovovich - are given their moments to shine as well. Kiele Sanchez, who is completely unknown to me (I'm aware she was on Lost for a bit - and was apparently widely hated - but sadly, I'm not a regular watcher of that show even though I probably should do so), will be in much more demand after this flick, I'd imagine. She's real and quirky-cute and Southern fried, and can talk your ear off while gutting and skinning a goat for dinner. Which of course, is an admirable trait in a woman, right? Milla Jovovich, as Cydney, continues to impress and grow as a performer; the woman doesn't simply kick zombie ass anymore. A couple years back she did a flick called .45, and while it wasn't really all that good, Jovovich totally was. She's developing into quite a good actress, and imbues Cydney with depth, well-drawn shades of character, and yes - when the time comes to fight, she's totally convincing.
Did I also mention the flick LOOKS gorgeous, too? Apparently shot mostly in Puerto Rico for tax reasons, you'll be too busy thinking "God, why can't I be there right now?" to care. Apparently P.R. is one hell of a stunt double for Hawaii, so file that away in your useless-information databank if you ever need to know. Twohy, who shot the living shit out of Pitch Black and Below (both kickass flicks in my opinion), and shot Chronicles of Riddick to living shit, is back on his game in a big way here. Smaller in scope - even if the locations don't skimp on eye candy - than any of the previous movies but as effective as his best work, Twohy really brings it here. I hope he stays on this course and gives me some more B-movie greatness (which again, Pitch Black and Below both were).
A Perfect Getaway is exactly my kind of winner, and made me very glad that out of all the flicks to catch at the end of summer, I picked this one. Oh, and honestly, Olyphant's Nick, self-described "American Jedi"? An outstanding individual performance and character. There's a line he delivers near the end of the flick, one he more or less nonchalantly throws away, that damn near made me stand up and cheer in the theater. Hope it does the same for you, whether you catch it before it's gone or enjoy in your own home, with the lights down and the sound up. I'm willing to bet those of you with a similar B-movie bent will be smiling like a moron when the credits roll.