I like movies that surprise - and that's precisely what A Perfect Getaway, a theatrically released thriller from Universal soon out on home video, does (though not in the one way it was intended to). I remember seeing the trailer for the film and thinking it looked like a fairly standard suspense film, and while I could be wrong, I don't think it exactly tore up the box office during its run. So, my expectations weren't all that high when DVD Talk sent me the disc for review.
And yet, A Perfect Getaway, while not quite perfect, does offer a fairly successful mix of dark humor and scares that should please its intended audience. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the film is the person behind it: David Twohy. Twohy is better known for his science fiction material like The Arrival and the Vin Diesel-fueled Chronicles of Riddick series. Here, however, he capably handles the decidedly non-science fiction directing chores, crafting some truly suspenseful moments, especially in the second half.
The script (also by Twohy) hinges upon a surprise twist that many will foresee, but that doesn't stop the film from being a fun ride. In A Perfect Getaway, honeymooners Cliff (a more mature Steve Zahn from the first Joy Ride horror film) and Cydney (the always likeable Milla Jovovich from the Resident Evil series) decide to spend their time hiking on a remote Hawaiian beach. News begins to spread that there's a killer couple on the loose just as Cliff and Cydney meet some very suspicious couples on the trail. First, there's Kale and Cleo, the former of whom seems more than a bit abusive. Then, there's Nick (Timothy Olyphant, the excellent action villain in Live Free or Die Hard) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez) - talk about an odd couple! Nick's one of those survival types whose stories about his background are so outrageous that they're both humorous and ominous at the same time, while Gina seems impossibly innocent with her Southern accent and true blue affection for Nick. Obviously, this being a thriller, the killer couple is indeed on the island, and Cliff has good reason to become increasingly paranoid as the story progresses and the odd assortment of characters are more fully developed.
Continuing with the surprises are the performances of the cast. All four of the leads are solid - but it's Timothy Olyphant who really carries this movie. It helps that he's given some entertaining dialogue to deliver. You never quite know what to think of his character, with off-the-wall comments seeming both endearing and offsetting at the same time. This is especially true when he tells Cliff a story about being in a special ops unit in Iraq and discovering a certain Iraqi dictator's stash of comic books in a bathroom. I also liked a postmodern exchange between Nick and Cliff about red herrings (or "red snappers" as Nick insists they're called) in thriller movies. Usually, self-aware dialogue like that seems forced, but it comes across here quite naturally - and is played well by Olyphant and Zahn.
Twohy's script, despite its obvious plot twist (which I won't spoil here, but I suspect you'll figure it out), is well-structured and spends a good amount of time fleshing out the main characters. A lengthy, blue-filtered flashback sequence about two-thirds of the way into the film, in particular, does an unusually satisfying job of filling in motivations (I suspect this sequence is lengthier in the unrated director's cut available on the disc, which runs roughly 10 minutes longer than the theatrical version).
Twohy also does a nice job of capturing the lush jungles that Cliff and Cydney are hiking in - this is a very colorful movie (though, the Internet Movie Database reports that many of the film locations were in Puerto Rico, not Hawaii). Action sequences get a bit gimmicky with split screens towards the end, but they have an energy to them regardless.
A Perfect Getaway arrives on DVD with both the theatrical and director's cut, as stated before. Disappointingly, there are no movie-specific extras here (more on this in a bit), but that doesn't stop me from highly recommending this comic thriller to fans of the genre.
Universal gives A Perfect Getaway an anamorphic widescreen presentation with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio that I'm confident represents its original theatrical exhibition. As I stated in the review proper, this is a lush, colorful film given its jungle setting, and the visual quality does not disappoint on that end. Details are also very sharp.
Three language tracks are available here: English, Spanish, and French. All are Dolby Digital 5.1. I listened to the English track and found it suitably dynamic. Optional subtitles are available in English, Spanish, and French as well.
Trailers precede the main menu for Nine, Taking Woodstock, American Pie Presents The Book of Love, Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball, and Inglorious Basterds. There's also an ad for the Blu-Ray format. And that's it for extras; not even the trailers are accessible through the menu system. That's a disappointment considering the norms for DVD extras for Hollywood films.
A Perfect Getaway may not be perfect, but it's definitely an entertaining B-style thriller that's elevated by a darkly comic script from David Twohy and strong performances from its cast. Timothy Olyphant, in particular, is great as the odd survivalist Nick. Universal should be shamed for not including extras on the DVD, but the movie alone warrants a "Highly Recommended" rating.