Another Craptastic Movie
David Twohy hopes you’re not as smart as he is. In fact, he’s counting on you being kinda dim. It’s the only way you can work your way through his new thriller A Perfect Getaway and come out at the end with any semblance of having been entertained. Because he dangles before the viewer “clues” that aren’t clues but screamingly obvious indications to the solution of the “clever” game he’s playing with you, indications that only completely virgin moviegoers — or completely stupid ones — could misconstrue.
Or else Twohy doesn’t care if you guess where he’s going. But I’m not sure if it’s any better that if he merely holds his audience in contempt.
Twohy has written some good B-movies — Below The Fugitive — and some bad ones: The Arrival, Pitch Black. (And he directed some of those, too, as he does this one.) But this must be some sort of new low for the slasher/serial killer genre in how it cannot decide if it’s a parody — if it is, it’s not a smart one — or a straight-up instance of the genre that wants to raise a bar on it… which it utterly fails to do.
Smug? Damn, this is a self-satisfied, arrogant excuse for a film, in which the red-herringness is piled on with outrageous aplomb till there can be no doubt that Twohy is daring you to guess what’s up and hoping you’re not up to it, or not caring if you are. Either way, it seems only to demonstrate that Twohy is out to prove how craftily postmodern and uber cynical he is, even if that has to come at the expense of a satisfying story.
Three couples are vacationing in a remote Hawaiian paradise: sweet, ordinary newlyweds Cliff (Steve Zahn: Management, The Great Buck Howard) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich: Resident Evil: Extinction, Ultraviolet); tattooed outcasts Kale (Chris Hemsworth: Star Trek) and Cleo (Marley Shelton: W., Planet Terror), also just married; and Iraq vet Nick (Timothy Olyphant: Stop-Loss, Live Free or Die Hard) and his Southern-unbelle girlfriend Gina (Kiele Sanchez: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium), who are like something out of Deliverance. As they all embark on a hike through a remote mountain trail to a gorgeous, secluded beach, they learn of the gruesome murders back on Oahu of a couple on their honeymoon by a male-female pair of psychos. Oh noes! Cliff and Cydney (“Cydney”? really?) are totes upset: surely the killers are one of the weird and creepy couples they’re stuck with! What shall they do?
All this is further complicated by the fact that Cliff is an unassuming Hollywood screenwriter who’s just made his first studio sale, and Nick is totally movie-mad and thinks his life — he was there when we stormed Saddam’s palace! — would make a great movie. So there’s mucho discussion about red herrings — Nick insists the term is “red snapper” — and how there’s gonna be “lots of twists and turns ahead” and how vitally important it is to “get the details right… otherwise we’re just making another craptastic movie.” Hmmm…
“You’ve got a good Act Two twist,” Nick assumes of Cliff’s screenplay, and so even if you hadn’t already guessed — from the nuttiness of the preposterousness of how, say, Kale and Cleo are depicted in their first appearance in the film — that Twohy was messin’ wit’ ya, this is the concrete evidence right here. Twohy is practically peeing in his pants with excitement over his Act Two twist — which, frankly, I had guessed from the trailer, and found no reason to doubt up to the very moment it was revealed — and doesn’t care if it’s so cinematically self-aware that it pushes other imperatives of fiction (engaging characters, a logical plot) to the backseat. All that matters here is how Twohy is tricking you… or trying to trick you… or trying to force you into speculating how you’re being tricked.
And when the trick is revealed, it doesn’t matter if it makes no sense, if the diversions Twohy has thrown our way were unfair deceptions. The killers are crazy: they’re allowed to do things that don’t make sense, even when no one is watching except the omniscient camera they’re not supposed to know is there.
Postmodernism is fine. Cynicism is fine. Tweaking clichés is fine. But when the only way you can do that is by jerking your audience around, that is not fine. A Perfect Getaway goes so far round the bend that it comes back again to meet itself in a place that it makes no sense to be in.