Tourist Trap

A Perfect Getaway
Running time 97 minutes
Written and directed by David Twohy
Starring Steve Zahn, Timothy Olyphant, Milla Jovovich, Kiele Sanchez

In the new action thriller/slice-and-dicer A Perfect Getaway, two couples who look like they’ve been doing overtime at the gym literally bash each other bloody with results that can only be described as moderate goose pimples. Half of the movie seems fresh and hair-raising. The rest is just disappointing and predictable. At least it provides the underrated Steve Zahn, a likable and inventive actor with natural talent, with a starring role. He makes every minute count.

When newlyweds Cliff and Cydney Anderson (Mr. Zahn and Milla Jovovich) arrive on the lush island of Kauai for an adventurous Hawaiian honeymoon, their timing coincides with the headline-making news that a pair of serial killers are on the loose, brutally hacking up the tourists. Cliff, a nearsighted screenwriter with nerdy spectacles and few outdoor skills, is no Indiana Jones, but he’s promised his wife an 11-mile hike up the Kalalau Trail to a spectacular beach with a hidden waterfall, so against all odds and the creepy feeling they’re being stalked, it’s a-hiking they go. The farther they get from the overcrowded part of the map and the deeper they plunge into the jungle, the stranger they feel. On the trail, they bond with another couple—Nick (Timothy Olyphant), a rugged hunter with ripped abs and a metal plate in his head from combat duty in Iraq, and his perky girlfriend, Gina (Kiele Sanchez), who has a thick Southern drawl and special skills with a machete. Cliff and Cydney feel safer with their new friends in tow. Nick is a warrior type who can survive the wilderness building shelter and catching his own food with a bow and arrow, and Gina is a whiz at gutting animals for food. Then a third couple encroaches—a pair of hostile, tattooed and potentially dangerous hippies who give Cliff the willies. Just when things get hairy, they are arrested and taken away by police helicopters. Case closed. Or is it? Suddenly the movie shifts gears, tables turn and roles reverse, plunging everyone into a fatal series of screaming terrors replete with red herrings, character reversals, screenplay twists and a violent, blood-drenched finale guaranteed to sizzle your nerves. The whole thing leads to the unraveling of the identity of the psychopathic maniacs, and if you’re unhinged by the big surprise, well then. You haven’t seen as many contrived chillers as the rest of us.

Nothing in the script by David Twohy, who also directed, is very suspenseful. The real scares come from watching the actors change skins like snakes. The women are comely enough, but the stars are the two fellows who know how to seize attention and hold it, with raw fury. Timothy Olyphant’s Nick is one of those sculptured, all-American, too-perfect-to-be-real hunks who could win a college football trophy or manage your stocks on Wall Street merely by a simple change of wardrobe—but with a dangerous edge. Cliff is the one who claims to write films, but Nick is the one who knows all the plots and drops all the names. His expressions alone fill A Perfect Getaway with surprises that are not in the script. And Steve Zahn’s Cliff keeps his balls in the air and out of sight until you don’t know what to think. He keeps you guessing. The film’s failure to supply logic in its characters when they start switching lanes is a big weakness, but I especially liked the great picture-postcard cinematography of Hawaii that contrasts savagery with sunshine and keeps you sighing while it hides the darker side of paradise.