Writer/director David Twohy is not a household name, possibly because he sabotaged his own franchise (based on his Richard B. Riddick character, played by Vin Diesel) after the nifty Pitch Black â€” a small, unheralded monster movie â€” by following with the bloated The Chronicles of Riddick, an overblown mess that could have ended his career. Now, in an act of celluloid contrition, he takes us on A Perfect Getaway to prove he can still make a lot of movie with few resources.
Twohy follows newlyweds Cliff and Cydney (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich) on a hike along a popular nature trail in Hawaii. They meet other people along the trail, including Nick and Gina (Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez), and the shadowy Kale and Cleo (Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton). The nerdy Cliff is having enough problems erecting his tent in a downpour and defending his masculinity from Nick, a macho former special ops soldier, when they hear a bulletin from Honolulu: A man and woman have been brutally murdered and the authorities suspect â€” you guessed it â€” that the psycho killers may be trying to escape over the trail. Cliffâ€™s paranoia shifts into high gear. Could the killers be Nick and Gina, whose idea of dinner includes skinning a mountain goat, or Kale and Cleo, the ominous psychotic couple stalking them?
The genius of the story is in its simplicity: Six people are in the wilderness, and two of them may be killers. Wouldnâ€™t it be a twist if, after two hours of grueling suspense, it was none of them?
Nothing is as it seems on this seemingly simple hike, and Twohy relishes in revealing his characters little by little, with a masterful rapport with his actors, eye for scenery and insistence on suspense over gratuitous violence. This isnâ€™t an action movie about whatâ€™s happening; itâ€™s a thriller about what might happen, which is much more satisfying. Thatâ€™s not to say that there isnâ€™t brutality; itâ€™s just not in your face every eight minutes. Twohy marinades his movie until the taste of paranoia permeates all.
Unlike The Chronicles of Riddick, A Perfect Getaway isnâ€™t overly ambitious and, by not being so, is sure of its destination and gets there efficiently and artfully, very much like Pitch Black. All are B movies in the best sense of the term, which Iâ€™m still not sure I grasp. If a movie accomplishes everything it sets out to do and does so with artistry, shouldnâ€™t it be an A film?
Alas, itâ€™s frequently not the measure of a filmâ€™s artistry that decides its letter grade, but its subject matter. If itâ€™s a thriller, a horror movie or a science fiction movie, then the prevailing critical perception is that it canâ€™t possible be an A movie. That, however, is not my perception.