The Anti-Hitchcock: David Twohy Cheats and Still Loses

City Pulse | August 3, 2009
The Anti-Hitchcock

David Twohy Cheats and Still Loses

A Perfect Getaway (Two Stars) (613 words)

By Cole Smithey

David Twohy, the filmmaker responsible for the sci-fi cult favorite "Pitch Black," creates a deconstructionist suspense thriller that plays like a college screenwriting project gone awry. Geeky Cliff and spunky Cydney (played by Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich) go on a dream honeymoon in Honolulu where the island's lush beauty attracts them to a mountainous hike only accessible on foot, or by helicopter, or kayak. News of the brutal murder of a couple not unlike themselves makes Cliff and Cydney suspicious of two other couples that they encounter along the way. It would be cheating to go into any of the film's third act surprises that pull the rug out from under everything that has gone on before, but suffice it to say that the revelation of a seriously flawed plot device serves merely to ramp up a predictable series of violent set pieces. "A Perfect Getaway" is an example of an amateurish attempt at reinventing a suspense formula that is rarely done right.

There's a lot of self-referencing of the action/suspense genre courtesy of Timothy Olyphant's character Nick, an Iraqi war vet badass--he calls himself "an American Jedi"--vacationing with his would-be bride Gina (Kiele Sanchez). Cliff introduces himself as a screenwriter, and Nick is only too happy to enter into a game of oneupsmanship since he attended a weekend script writing workshop that leads him to reference "red snappers" as a plot device used to throw audiences off balance. Cliff corrects him, "It's red herrings" he says. Either way, the argument is relevant because the whole movie is indebted to developing and chasing the biggest red herrings used in any movie so far this century.

Nick sees himself as a Nicolas Cage type, and cracks wise with an explanation of the way Cage "gets really intense at the end of every sentence." It's an observation tailored for hip movie audiences to get an insider laugh. The trouble is that if you don't take to this kind of bait, you're probably not going to enjoy Twohy's third act reversal that flips the story back on itself in the interest of satisfying himself as a clever screenwriter.

Nick and Gina are the kind of couple that go hiking with hunting bow to kill and clean wild goat for dinner, so it makes sense that perhaps they might pose a physical threat of the serial killer variety. The other couple that Cliff and Cydney run into seem even more prone to violence because the guy, Kale (Chris Hemsworth) carries a huge chip on his shoulder that grows when he meets up with Cliff and Cydney again after being refused a ride on their way to the same location. Twohy also throws in a local tour guide dude who takes notice of the big wad of cash that Cliff uses to pay for hiking permits that make for a poorly played plot gambit.

It's not often that a filmmaker attempts to cheat their audience in the way that David Twohy does with impunity. His failure to make up for it with a blood splattered ending only exposes further the folly of his ways. Timothy Olyphant plays his theme-heavy role with a knowing wink and the smarmy charm of a compulsive raconteur. When he jibes Cliff about his lack of "situational awareness," it's the audience that he's really taunting. There just isn't much satisfaction in playing a game where the dealer is playing with a different deck of cards. It's a childish kind of filmmaking that Alfred Hitchcock would call irresponsible.

Rated R. 98 mins. (C) (Two Stars)

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