Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Perfect Getaway (2009)

A certain auteur has made so many masterpieces, none of them particularly obscure, that it’s hard to pick just one to cover. The choice was made for me when Adam Nayman posted a 10-year anniversary retrospective of David Twohy’s A Perfect Getaway. They don’t make ‘em like they used to, and this twister of an action thriller certainly helps one to appreciate the good old days.

Warning: This review contains spoilers.

Steve Zahn steals the show as the neurotic screenwriter Cliff, the writer-director’s self-aware self-insert with a few bad habits. Zahn previously worked with Werner Herzog, playing a POW in Rescue Dawn (2006). For whatever reason I’m not sure if Twohy shares my enthusiasm about Zahn. To quote Twohy in his take on Adam’s retrospective:

Steve got dark sometimes, a little ornery, but I chalked it up to the darkness of his character’s character — rightly or not.

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Isn’t that what you expect from a guy like Steve? Just look at his face. This is the exact kind of actor I would cast if I were in a position to do so. What a powerhouse performance he gave.

So, the story. Cliff and Cydney (Milla Jovovich) go on a honeymoon in Hawaii. Trouble is brewing; when they arrive there are reports of a serial killer on the island. They run into another vacationing couple: Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez).

Some harsh words are exchanged about differing lifestyles between the couples, with Cliff being a screenwriter and Nick and Gina being a couple of rapscallions presumably on Nick’s G.I. bill. If you ask me, Nick and Gena both look clean and sophisticated, so they don’t really come across as the bad guys. It turns out they aren’t; (spoiler alert) Cliff and Cydney are.

And they fight. The action scenes are done very well, as you should expect from David Twohy, wrtiter/director of the Riddick series. There is a particularly memorable bit near the end when Nick has a gun to Cliff’s head and Cliff delivers a monologue.

The line as originally written:

So what’s the big finish, Nick? How’s our movie end?

In the film, the line is:

You think this is it? Huh? Bad guy bites it, crowd goes nuts. You know what I hate about that ending, aside from it being cliché? It’s your verson of reality, palie, not mine!

There was nothing like that on subsequent lines, as you can see in Twohy’s generously published screenplay collection. I chalk it up to either a subsequent revision of the script or Steve Zahn improvising the shit out of it like the self-determining actor he is. There was probably a back-and-forth with the director resulting in lots of “dark” takes and making for one of the greatest filmmaking experiences I can imagine.

Check it out if you haven’t already. This is B-movie theatricality at its finest.