A Perfect Getaway is a satisfying summer thriller

Screenwriter Cliff (Steve Zahn) and his new wife Cydney (Mila Jovovich) are an annoyingly cutesy couple on a Hawaiian honeymoon. They’re having a great time taking helicopter rides and making plans to hike to a secluded beach, but there’s trouble in paradise. A pair of killers is at large on the island, which Cliff learns in an overdone variation on the “I can’t get any reception on my cell phone” scene mandatory in modern day thrillers and horror films. Good thing Cliff didn’t pick up those shady looking hitchhikers. Then again, maybe Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and his girlfriend Gina (Kiele Sanchez), a couple Cliff and Cydney meet on their way to the beach, could be the murderous duo. Nick is an Iraq war vet with a metal plate in his head who brags about how hard he is to kill and tries to pitch his life story to Cliff for a movie. Gina is an uninhibited knock-out who can field-dress a goat without missing a beat.

Zahn and Olyphant are two of the best character actors out there, and while it would be inaccurate to say they make their characters believable (that’s not what this movie is going for), they’re never less than interesting to watch. Sanchez and Jovovich also do good work here, creating female characters that are capable and competent without crossing the line into full-on Ripley mode. It’s especially nice to see Jovovich remind us of the promise she once showed as an actress in Dazed and Confused before embarking on the string of cheesy zombie and sci-fi movies she’s done ever since.

Writer/director David Twohy (Pitch Black, Chronicles of Riddick) makes a lot of Cliff’s profession, having his characters use terms like “second act plot twist” and “red snappers” (actually red herrings, but Nick insists it’s snappers). These references serve as knowing winks to the audience that, yes, this film will have plenty of twists and turns and herrings, too. It’s fun, but at times the approach is a little too clever for its own good. The movie also stops cold for awhile when the big twist is revealed and it has to flash back to show how it all makes sense, which I’m not entirely sure it does. Still, that’s not enough to prevent A Perfect Getaway, which opens area-wide today, from being a fun and mostly satisfying summer thriller. ***