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Case Number 18003

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A Perfect Getaway

Universal // 2009 // 108 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // January 4th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Daniel Kelly doesn't trust anyone when he's on vacation, especially very young children and the elderly.

Editor's Note

Our review of A Perfect Getaway (Blu-Ray), published December 29th, 2009, is also available.

The Charge

6 strangers. 2 killers. No getting away.

Opening Statement

Following the overblown misfire that was The Chronicles of Riddick in 2004, director David Twohy has kept a very low profile in Hollywood. In 2009 the filmmaker decided to return with the decidedly lower budget and more simplistic A Perfect Getaway, however the worldwide $20 million it pulled in during the dying weeks of summer won't have done much to restore the industries confidence in Twohy. The clear aim with A Perfect Getaway is Hitchcock in paradise, Twohy setting up a murder mystery with six solid suspects and slowly twisting the script in order to keep the audience guessing as to who is guilty. In fairness, for the first 45 minutes I was genuinely enjoying the movie, but then it starts to get repetitious and in the closing third deploys a plot twist that is mishandled and unbelievable. The film's unimpressive box-office showing isn't hard to deduce, word of mouth can only have been tepid at best, and unfortunately it starts more competently than it ends. Add in a bare bones DVD release and it's hard to see the filmmaking having any real impact on the home video arena.

Facts of the Case

Newlyweds Cliff (Steve Zahn, Management) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich, The Fourth Kind) are planning on a beautiful honeymoon in Hawaii, and upon arrival all gets off to a jovial and romantic start. However during their hike they learn that a pair of murderers are on the loose in the beautiful but isolated environment, and after they run into two other couples, suspicions between the three groups starts to rise. The other couples are Nick (Timothy Olyphant, Hitman) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez, Stuck on You), an adventurous but quirky duo with no qualms about bloodshed, and a gruff and dangerous pair called Kale (Chris Hemsworth, Star Trek) and Clio (Marley Shelton, Sin City). As they hike further into the lush undergrowth and further from civilization, the respective groups become increasingly paranoid and probing, leading to an unsettled atmosphere and eventually a bloody revelation.

The Evidence

Having really been enchanted with Twohy's dark and lean sci-fi horror Pitch Black back in 2000, I was willing to hope that going back to his thriller roots might prompt Twohy to rediscover his past form. The promotional material for A Perfect Getaway was promisingly moody and stylish and so I really was keen to give the picture a chance. For just under half its runtime, the movie rewards such an investment albeit in the most conventional of ways, taking a familiar template but cooking up an intriguing little murder mystery around the tropical locations and uncertain character interaction. Yet for some reason, the film takes the modestly pleasing formula and runs it into the ground, before unleashing a cringe inducing explanation for all the shifty looks and occasional brandishing of blades. A Perfect Getaway is a disappointing motion picture, one that Twohy needs to forget nearly as quickly as The Chronicles of Riddick.

The cinematography is bold and picturesque, and probably the picture's most consistently pleasing asset. The environments are filled with vibrancy and color but also on occasion Twohy smartly uses them to create a sense of unease and ferocity (the storm sequences are refined but definitely atmospheric), and bar a few instances he doesn't go overboard with aggressive visuals and hyper kinetic shot construction. Technically this is a proficient film and one that has an editing style to suit its slowly unraveling conspiracy; it's glossy but not in an intrusive MTV sort of way.

The performances are pretty average, something not aided by the generic character types on show. Zahn and Jovovich create an ample chemistry and feeling of newlywed fizz, but there isn't much meat on the robust bones. Olyphant and Sanchez don't sit well together, and whilst Olyphant is darkly charming on his own, Sanchez probably hands in the picture's least interesting or commendable piece of acting. Her presence isn't up to much, and sequences in which she has one-to-ones with other characters are notably strained simply by her being there. Hemsworth and Shelton are efficiently uneasy and create a pervading menace when Twohy wants to mix things up, but they get far less screen time than the other key players.

The story trundles along quite nicely when it's content to pander toward more conventional storytelling. The first act isn't ambitious, but it succeeds in the realms of slick entertainment. A few red herrings are added and relationships bubble at a limited but accessible rate, overall it's forgettable but in a quiet sort of way rather fun. Problems arise when Twohy fails to spice things up and begins to give out the impression his tale is smarter than the audience, something that based on the silly conclusion certainly isn't so. Adding to the fluffed execution of this section is the fact it fuels one of the hammiest performances I've seen this year (can't say who without completely spoiling it all) and that it isn't invigorating or exciting. It also suspends audience disbelief to an enormous length, placing the picture firmly beyond recovery.

The movie isn't particularly gory or graphic and seems to have scored its R rating on the back of profanity, a missed opportunity for a little blood mayhem. The director's cut also included on this disc is about 10 minutes longer but really only extends the picture's runtime rather than rectifying any of its problems, though in fairness the troubles with this production are inherent within Twohy's narrative and not something that could be repaired with extra padding. The DVD looks brilliant and sounds decent but hasn't got any bonus material. I realize Blu-Ray is trying to get a monopoly on the market and as a Hi-Def man myself I applaud that, but slapping regular DVD buyers with such unflattering releases is cruel and thankless. Next time at least include a commentary or a featurette for the standard-def consumer.

Closing Statement

It's not a complete cinematic mishap, but A Perfect Getaway squanders a good opening and ends up underwhelming. The DVD is useless, sure the visuals are great but the complete dearth of extras is unacceptable.

The Verdict

Twohy can make decent films but his unfortunate run continues with A Perfect Getaway. This crappy disc isn't going to improve matters for the financially floundering film either, and ultimately the court has to hand out a guilty verdict.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 89
Audio: 85
Extras: 0
Acting: 75
Story: 70
Judgment: 74

Perp Profile

Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• English (SDH)
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Unrated
• Horror
• Mystery
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Theatrical and Unrated Versions


• IMDb

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