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MOVIE REVIEW

A Perfect Getaway

Nothing fancy, ‘Getaway’ offers summer escape

A Perfect Getaway In the thriller "A Perfect Getaway," newlyweds (above from left) Milla Jovovich and Steve Zahn meet up with a mysterious couple Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez (not pictured). (Javier Pesquera/Rouge Pictures)
By Ty Burr
Globe Staff / August 7, 2009

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‘A Perfect Getaway’’ may be a lousy title for a suspense thriller, but once you see the film, it does make a certain multi-leveled sense. In the same way, the movie itself turns out to be a neatly crafted B-movie pleasure - nothing fancy, but the gasps, screams, and (mostly) intentional laughs are there. Anyway, “The Honeymoon Killers’’ was already taken.

It’s one of those city-mice-in-the-wilderness affairs, with newly married yuppies Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich) embarking on a Hawaiian hiking honeymoon on the isle of Kauai (cue dramatic helicopter shots of the jagged Na Pali Coast). They’re in love and terminally naïve, forging ahead even after hearing about the brutal murder of two other newlyweds on Oahu - even after the chopper pilot calls the area “the most gorgeous dead end God ever made.’’ He stops just short of painting targets on their backs.

Cliff and Cydney are savvy enough to avoid a creepy psycho-surfer couple they meet on the trail (Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton). On the other hand, they’re clueless enough to tag along with Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez), who may or may not be the sweetest pair of homicidal killers on the island.

Nick’s handy with a bow and arrow, and he regales Cliff with tales of his days in Iraq as part of an advance black-ops team. “I’m an American Jedi,’’ he crows, and Olyphant, who’s delightfully confident here, almost makes you believe the brag. Gina, a lanky Southern belle, can skin and dress a goat in minutes. “I find it more interesting than gory, really,’’ she remarks, which isn’t a bad description of the movie as a whole.

That’s pretty much all you get: Three couples strung out on a remote trail waiting for violence to erupt. Surprisingly, it’s enough. “A Perfect Getaway’’ is proof that a dumb idea can be brought to life, however briefly, by smart people, and writer-director David Twohy (“Pitch Black’’) is nothing if not clever. He makes Cliff a Hollywood screenwriter with a script lost in rewrite hell, a fact that still impresses Nick, who’s sure his life would make a terrific Nicolas Cage project. “It’s all about story,’’ he barks at Gina. Exactly so; seen in retrospect, some of the scenes could be writer’s exercises in how to mislead an audience.

If it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible, I can say the game board gets dramatically rearranged at a certain point, after which the blood flows and dramatic believability is reduced to entertaining tatters. The actors - who are all quite a bit sharper than the people they’re playing - deliver their lines with nuances that, in retrospect, are entirely warranted. “A Perfect Getaway’’ may not play fair by the audience but at least it cheats honestly. These days that’s something.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com. For more on movies, go to www.boston.com/movienation.

A PERFECT GETAWAY Written and directed by: David Twohy

Starring: Steve Zahn, Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant, Kiele Sanchez

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 97 minutes

Rated: R (graphic violence, language including sexual references, some drug use)

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