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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » A Perfect Getaway (Blu-ray)
A Perfect Getaway (Blu-ray)
Universal // Unrated // December 29, 2009 // Region A
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted December 16, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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After a $100 million swing-and-a-miss with The Chronicles of Riddick five years ago, writer/director David Twohy retreated back to the lower budget arena where he'd cut his teeth hammering out movies like Pitch Black, Below, and The Arrival. A Perfect Getaway isn't exactly a return to form, though. Hell, it's not even a movie: it's a plot twist, and not even a particularly clever one at that. A Perfect Getaway is supposed to pass for a thriller, on one hand starting with a classic approach -- a grisly murder, slowly getting to know the suspects, each of them seemingly wondering if the other has blood on his hands -- and melding it with here-and-now gimmicky editing tricks, winking post-modernism, and a sleazy streak nicked out of a USA Original Movie. A Perfect Getaway has a self-satisfied smirk plastered across its face, cackling to itself about how clever it is, only...yeah, clever it's not so much.

Lovey-dovey newlyweds Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovavich) are trotting around Hawaii for their honeymoon. They've hit all the usual tourist traps, sure, but now they're off to explore an out-of-the-way island -- nothing between them and unspoiled, entrancingly gorgeous nature. Neither of 'em are exactly the adventurous type -- Cliff is a kind of dweeby, nebbish screenwriter whose first flick is underway without him, and Cydney's all wide-eyed and toothy grinned about squirting out eight thousand of his babies -- but...hey! Honeymoon! They're up for trekking through these treacherous, mountainous paths to make their way to one of the most breathtaking beaches the world over. It seems like they'd be left to fend for themselves, but Cliff and Cyd are in luck...well, depending on how you look at it. The two of them quickly meet up with Nick (Timothy Olyphant), an outdoorsman with a hyperconfident swagger and a seemingly neverending parade of stories as a black-ops badass. Nick steps into the role of an impromptu guide, and after introducing his new pals to his Southern-fried girlfriend Gina (Kiele Sanchez), the four of them decide to hang out together for the rest of their time on the island.

Cliff's reception is spotty, but he's able to latch onto a signal just long enough to read a news story confirming that a brutal murder a few islands over was committed by a man and a woman. He can't tell much from the fuzzy photo, but could TommyNick and Gina be the butcherers? I mean, Nick's a guy who gave a nickname to the the knife he keeps strapped to his leg, and Gina can skin and gut a freshly-killed goat in a few minutes flat. The Waltons they're not. ...or could it be that kind of sketchy looking couple (Marley Shelton and Chris Hemsworth) that Cliff and Cyd accidentally flipped off a few miles back? Maybe it's whatever
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shadowy wisps are creeping around the trees off in the distance...?

I really do like David Twohy as a writer/director. Pitch Black is a ridiculously effective horror/sci-fi/action hybrid -- maybe my favorite this side of Aliens -- and the Darren Aronofsky-scripted haunted submarine thriller Below is criminally underappreciated. A Perfect Getaway, though...? Never gave me a reason to care. For one, it does a lousy job setting up the stakes. We don't get to pal around the victims. We read and hear news reports of the murder but don't see it happen, at least not at the outset. It's just hard to feel invested in something I'm hearing about in passing and secondhand. Cliff, Cydney, Nick, and Gina chat about the grisly slayings, but they treat it like hearing an unfamiliar bump downstairs in the dead of night...more of a half-curious "hmmm...maybe that'd be worth a look" rather than an urgent "they're going to hack me into bloody, fist-sized chunks".

As always, I kinda dug Timothy Olyphant; he's saddled with some stilted, clunky dialogue, but even with the physicality that goes along with this role, he really seems at ease here. Cliff is deliberately kind of a bore, though, and Cydney's grating with her beaming, eight quadrillion candela optimism. Gina grabs onto a pretty much intolerable I-worked-at-a-Piggly-Wiggly-in-Georgia-y'all Suuuuuuuuuuuthern accent, and...yeah, it sounds like she shrugged off getting a vocal coach and just watched reruns of Designing Women or something instead. There's that other couple too, but they're barely in the movie long enough to be a distraction.

The short version: nothing happens. Seriously, for the first 85 minutes of this unrated director's cut of A Perfect Getaway, someone almost tumbles off a cliff and a dude gets tackled under a bunch of trees. That's it. Boring, room temperature characters, no real sense of impending danger, no action, no near-misses: just lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of talking. It's more just random stories than genuine characterization. Some of 'em are pretty good ways to kill time, like Nick talking about the secret cache he
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unearthed in Iraq, but too many of the rest are like disinterestedly eavesdropping on a conversation at an office Christmas party. I respect the fact that Twohy is trying to orient A Perfect Getaway more around characters and dialogue rather than cheap thrills, but it leaves out the part where I'm supposed to care about anything that happens. Its general approach can be wildly effective when executed properly, but when it's not...well, that's the problem this time around. A Perfect Getaway also suffers from a grating look-at-how-clever-I-am streak, lobbing on all sorts of meta-winking as its characters gab about stock thriller conventions and red herrings. It's not funny, it's not inspired...it kind of reeks of Donald Kaufman, really.

It's all about the twist they never shut up about in the TV spots and trailers, although once you waltz in looking for a twist, it's kind of impossible to miss. I mean, it's a murder mystery with a tiny, tiny handful of characters; there are only so many directions this can really go. It's nearly an hour and a half into this director's cut before anything resembling action creeps in, and after that few frames, there's a fifteen minute flashback spelling out how the whole thing got started. (The director's cut clocks in ten minutes longer than the theatrical release, and half that time goes to this one sequence.) The action that follows is effective, but it's much too little too late.

A Perfect Getaway is half sleazy, double-digit-IQ thriller and half smug, hey-I-took-a-screenwriting-seminar wankery. It flops as a character-centric pulse-pounder, the movie leans much too heavily on its hour-and-a-half-in twist as a crutch, and it's bogged down by clunky dialogue, campy acting, and a glacial pace. The only thing A Perfect Getaway does right is its many sweeping shots of the Hawaiian landscape, but if that's all you're eyeing, you're better off buying some sort of travelogue instead. Skip It.

C'mon, sprawling Hawaiian vistas, glossy cinematography...A Perfect Getaway ought to be startlingly beautiful in high definition. I'm kind of surprised to say that this really isn't that impressive a Blu-ray disc, though. The image is reasonably sharp and detailed, but outside of exceptionally tight shots, that sort of clarity isn't particularly eye-popping. I guess Lost has trained me to expect a Hawaii brimming with lush greens and piercing blues, but A Perfect Getaway opts instead to deflate quite a bit of the color. Much of the movie skews yellow, and portions of one rainy sequence are drenched in cold blues while the men trudge around trees blanketed under dark greens. The most stylized section is an extended flashback that's bleached blue and blows out the highlights, sending memories of David Twohy's Pitch Black flooding back. The scope image has a disappointingly digital look to it: flat, bland, and riddled with video noise that can be particularly distracting whenever the camera pans. There's never any lingering doubt that A Perfect Getaway is a newly-minted high definition release, but this is hardly the reference quality Blu-ray disc I waltzed in expecting.

Rather than leaning on seamless branching, Universal has piled on separate, full-length VC-1 encodes for each version of A Perfect Getaway on this BD-50 disc.

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its 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is awfully underwhelming. The surrounds are reserved entirely for understated atmosphere: water lapping into a sea cave, whirring helicopter blades, the rush of wind... There is a fair amount of directionality up front, like one character being forcefully dragged into a helicopter, but there's essentially no action at all in the rear channels. The lower frequencies don't get much of a workout either, punctuating a couple of jump scares, reinforcing the eclectic score, and beefing up a few scattered effects like the roar of crashing waves. I don't need a thriller to be some sort of sensory overload or anything, but A Perfect Getaway sounds more like a stereo track that disinterestedly bleeds into the other channels. Otherwise, the fidelity's fine, and everything's balanced effectively in the mix. Just wholly unremarkable.

A Perfect Getaway also offers lossy DTS 5.1 dubs in Spanish and French. The list of subtitles includes streams in English (SDH), Spanish, and French, and this Blu-ray disc is enhanced for D-Box rigs.

Aside from including both the theatrical and director's cuts of the film, the one and only extra is the original scripted ending (3 min.; HD). It's not all that different, really -- a few lines are swapped out and a set of crosshairs are aimed at a different character, but the end result is the same. One odd difference: a bit of blood takes the place of a trickle of spittle. Think Mortal Kombat back in the watered-down SNES days. Whatever. It doesn't amount to much.

No digital copy this time around. A Perfect Getaway does have some sort of BD Live connectivity, but the switch hasn't been flipped on as of this writing.

The Final Word
Isn't the point of a thriller to serve up some...y'know, thrills? A Perfect Getaway is a third-act plot twist in search of a movie. Bland, boring characters...right at a full hour and a half before anything actually happens...blah. Skip It.

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