Honeymoon time for newlyweds Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich). Cliff is a screenwriter whose first script is going into production, but decides to put work to the back of his mind when he reaches their holiday destination of Hawaii. Driving along a road to a particularly beautiful part of one of the islands, they notice a couple standing by the side of the road and Cliff stops to offer them a lift, seeing as how this is known as a place of good nature and friendliness, but once the female half (Marley Shelton) gets in, they wonder if they've made the right decision as her boyfriend (Chris Hemsworth) starts getting angry...
A Perfect Getaway was one of those movies which few had high hopes for, but turned out to have one element which made it stand out as writer and director David Twohy pulled the rug out from under the audience about two thirds of the way through. Up until that point, he and his cast walked a balancing act that made sure were were uncertain as to who the real bad guys were, as what becomes apparent over the opening half hour is that there is a couple of criminals in the area who have brutally murdered another couple, so what he begin to wonder is, who are the killers? Have we met them already?
And if not, when will they appear? Because this being a thriller, we are well aware that we're going to encounter the evildoers sooner or later. It is later, as it turns out, as Twohy maintains a very slow burn of tension, leaking through vital plot details, enough to keep us intrigued but holding back from playing his hand too early. This could also indicate that the less patient viewer might find this gradual build up heavy going, but something about the marvellous scenery this is set in keep the eyes entertained as the brain is cleverly fooled. Are the two villains those we met at the beginning, who seemed so put out with Cliff and Cydney?
Or how about the off-kilter enough to make us wary duo in Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez) who our lead characters meet on the trail they have opted to take as a hike, both a way to keep fit and a way to take in the scenery? Nick in particular seems an odd chap, but is he merely a tall tale telling eccentric, or is he actually crazy enough to want to kill someone? Cliff is especially suspicious of Nick, and gets more so as the film progresses thereby making us dubious about him as well, yet there's always the possibility in the back of our minds that we are being fed a red herring. When there are two suspects arrested later on, we know that something is up as it's so unlikely that Twohy would resolve that narrative so early.
That can be a problem with A Perfect Getway - which true to form has a title that could be taken either way, as a nice vacation or as baddies making good their escape. It's so intent on keeping the audience in suspense that there's little room for much else going on, so we are offered scenes of the angry couple confronting Cliff about his reluctance to give them a lift and his flimsy excuses for not doing so, then later on Nick ventures out into the forest ostensibly to hunt for that night's dinner with a bow and arrow, but also to ensure they are not being tracked by some unknown party. Or does he have something else planned? To their credit, the cast keep the poker faces well in place until the big reveal, and it's a seasoned mystery fan who will have this sussed, as Twohy kind of cheats and kind of doesn't to sustain his tension. The fact that it ends in a welter of violence, however, was no surprise. Music by Boris Elkis.