David Twohy is a veteran of Hollywood genre fare, having tried his hand as screenwriter or writer-director on thrillers of all stripes—on land (The Fugitive, G.I. Jane), by sea (Below, Waterworld), and from outer space (Pitch Black, The Chronicles Of Riddick, The Arrival). He rarely does more than deliver on expectations, but he knows the conventions of genre material enough to exploit them to clever effect. Twohy’s latest effort, A Perfect Getaway, is akin to a magician doing a trick with all the cards face up, asking the audience to trust what they see while he pulls one over on them anyway. Even if you know what’s coming, it’s a neat bit of meta-thriller filmmaking, as much about the mechanics of storytelling as a reasonably satisfying example of it.
Taking a break from his space cadet typecasting, Steve Zahn stars as a neophyte Hollywood screenwriter enjoying a honeymoon with wife Milla Jovovich in a lush, tucked-away Eden in Kauai, Hawaii. Before setting off on a 12-mile hike to the beach, Zahn and Jovovich are unsettled by news about a series of murders in Honolulu, apparently committed by a couple still at large. Along the way, they encounter two couples who raise their suspicions. Behind Door #1: A pair of hitchhikers, played by Marley Shelton and Chris Hemsworth, the latter a tatted-up bully with a foul temper. Behind Door #2: Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez, a more charismatic and likable pair that know very well—perhaps too well—how to survive in the isolation of unspoiled nature.
The whodunit aspect of A Perfect Getaway isn’t that strenuous a challenge, no matter how often Twohy exploits his hero’s profession for commentary on the rules of the game. (When Olyphant insists that the term for a false avenue in a story is a “red snapper,” he’s trying to cast himself in that role.) But Twohy executes his diverting, forgettable paperback thriller with a modicum of cleverness and style, and the Kauai locations add to the mood of breezy escapism. Once the big twist is finally revealed, the film falls back on by-the-numbers action mayhem, but Twohy knows that’s part of the thriller game, too, and he’s happy to let A Perfect Getaway go down winking.