So once again we have survived.

A Perfect Getaway

tn_perfectgetawaySteve Zahn and Milla Jovovich are on a honeymoon hike in Hawaii. Another couple has been killed, possibly by a newlywed couple like them, and all the other tourists are getting paranoid about it, but they decide to continue with the hike anyway. This is one o’ them suspense thrillers, and it did a good job of keeping me in suspensed thrills.

From the beginning on it keeps dropping hints about what  might be up. A sinister past for Zahn? Maybe it’s straight up and this scary couple here are killers? Or this nice couple? Or the other couple? You’ll have alot of theories throughout and as long as you consider the correct one at some point you can claim you figured it out and defeated the movie. The writer/director is David Twohy, famed chronicler of Riddick. It’s another solid B-movie notch on his belt – nothing transcendent, but effective and fun, with some clever touches.

mp_perfectgetawayYou hear right away that Zahn is a screenwrtiter and you think uh oh… director stand-in. Could get self-indulgent. Could get embarrassing. Does he think we care about his Hollywood problems? But it turns out to be mostly self-effacing, at least the way Zahn plays it.

Timothy Olyphant might not have been the very best of the DIE HARD villains, and he really didn’t work for that HITMAN thing, but he’s generally pretty good, and here’s one where his presence and performance really elevate the movie. He plays a guy they run into on the hike who helps them get past a scary part on a cliff. Next thing you know he introduces them to his girlfriend and the two couples are hiking together.

Because he’s a screenwriter they talk about movies a little bit, and you get some postmodern business where they’re talking about red herrings and stuff… you get it? Because this is a movie we’re watching, and it– well, I think you get. I thought this was kind of funny because I seem to remember Olyphant had to do that in SCREAM 2 also. But here they don’t lay it on too thick. Olyphant’s got a real good character that keeps you guessing – he seems kind but cruel, menacing but goofy. Sometimes he seems like kind of a dumbass, sometimes like a mastermind setting up traps. He claims to be a badass special ops guy, tells some stories, and it’s said twice that he’s “hard to kill.” Whatever he really is he knows his camping shit and his bowhunting, so it’s got that classic city boy/country boy tension. You know, this guy might be a murderer, and if so he’ll have all these skills that I can’t compete with. Or he might not be a murderer, but he’ll make me look like a sissy, because I don’t know how to set up a tent or whatever.

Harry Knowles wrote in his DVD column, “I really liked about 3/4s of this movie, and then it made me want to flip it off.” I don’t get it because the part that he is rudely gesturing at is clearly the part of the movie that makes it original. Also he doesn’t specify if he wanted to do a full-on double flip off or just one handed, or why it is that he wanted to do this but did not actually achieve it. Anyway, I’m gonna have to SPOILER this shit so please abandon this review if you haven’t seen it yet. 100% spoiler material from here on out.
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stop reading.

The genius of the switcheroo is that it convinced me it was a fair trade. Okay, so I was going along with this couple, and suspicious of Olyphant, but to learn that he’s actually the victim here is kind of a relief. It’s like okay, good – I wanted to root for this guy anyway. And his girlfriend seems so nice, it would be sad if he was a psycho and she’s one of these trapped-in-a-relationship helpless girls. This is good news. Plus, he has that special forces training, right? And he’s “really hard to kill.” Before that was a threat hanging over our head, now we get to switch sides and say, “Shit, bring out the special forces training!” We get to wish for asskicking instead of dread it.

I mean, I liked those two enough that I briefly considered if it was possible to make a sequel with them. But that doesn’t make any sense, unless it was the same characters in an unrelated adventure that’s the first part of a planned trilogy. But I doubt that’s something David Twohy would ever be interested in doing.

So many thrillers leave the big reveal for the very end. I like how this one comes out earlier – it re-arranges everything and sets the stage for a big chase. And at the same time it’s using flashbacks to explain what’s really been going on it also sets up a new romantic subplot that makes the movie end on a surprisingly sweet note. I feel like you gotta admire the construction of it, the way it tricks you, leaving out the beginning or ending of a conversation so it seems totally different when you see it in context later on. It’s like a Mad Magazine fold-in!

Anyway, a solid, enjoyable thriller. We need some of these every once in a while. Good work Twohy.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 at 2:49 am and is filed under Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

61 Responses to “A Perfect Getaway”

  1. A friend lent me this one and when he handed the DVD to me he said, “You might like this, it’s about a couple who [SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER]”, which kind of ruined the whole experience. Watching a film where you already know the twist because your friend is careless isn’t much fun. Without that surprise revelation, I guess it doesn’t work as well as it should, so I didn’t really enjoy this one.

    Olyphant was good, though, and Hawaii looks very pretty.

  2. I don’t really think knowing the “twist” spoils much about this one. I was pretty sure I had figured it out fairly early in the film, and I turned out to be right, but I still had a hell of a good time watching the film, admiring its construction and the cleverness of the screenplay.

    Also, I really dig the way the film is a tense but funny slow burn sort of thriller for 85% of the run time, then suddenly it flies completely off the rails into a ridiculous, heavily stylized, over-the-top action comedy during the finale. It was weirdly cathartic.

  3. Vern – yeah I enjoyed it too. Nothing extraordinary or remarkably daring, but at least I think that PITCH BLACK guy can’t be dogged by RIDDICK anymore.

    And to people who bitch about the twist…well too fucking bad.

    I don’t want to spoil this to people who haven’t seen it, so instead…..lets just say its part of a literary tradition, and no it doesn’t make in conjunction with the early scenes…but I liked that.

    I mean movies aren’t real. From one’s perspective, its what happened. How can I make this make sense without spoiling?

    Plus I loved that O face Jonovich made at hearing about the priest caught sucking off that Tranvestite hooker. I guess the budget ran out of money for a Ted Haggard cameo.

  4. I really enjoyed this one too. Loved not only the twist but how the movie went back and repainted everything giving you a new perspective and really getting you to root for Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez’s characters. The line at the end made me laugh out loud, it kind of summed up Olyphant’s goofballness.

  5. I loved this, Olyphant gave the most enjoyable performance I saw last year, and proved to me he could be interesting after Die Hard 4.0 and Hitman. And Twohy proved he can write an actual script after the softwear test he wrote for Riddick. Although I should note I’m one of those guys who hated COR but would be up for another Riddick film because the character is kind of cool and the ending of the last one was awesome.

  6. I guessed the twist right before it cleared up, and actually went back to watch key scenes again just to be sure it could be the way I thought it was. I thought, “yep, they could be talking about themselves there, and that dialogue fits, too.” And then I went back to the scene I was watching, and about 30 seconds later, the twist happened.

    I thought it was fine.

  7. Not seen it, but I guessed what the twist was from watching the trailer. Not because the trailer really spoils it, just because everything in the trailer was suggesting the opposite, but still trying to maintain the idea of there being suspense around it.
    Though speaking of action movies set in idyllic locales, are you going to continue your WWE Films review streak and cover The Marine 2, with Ted Dibiase Jr, Vern?

  8. Put me on the side of the people who liked but didn’t love it. I can watch anything Tim Olyphant is in and enjoy it, although I agree he was woefully miscast and under-used in “Die Hard 4”. It’s beautifully done though. Unfortunately I had this film spoiled for me also, which is really, really irritating because I think it would’ve been more fun if it hadn’t been.

    My favorite Olyphant film is “Go”. He’s great in that one, although it’s an ensemble piece so he doesn’t get that much screen time.

  9. This is one of those movies that while not life changing in any regard, does what it does so damn well that I will revisit it again soon. It was a pleasure to examine the structure and even more pleasant to watch the performances.

    I’ll agree with Vern that I wish more movies did the big reveal, if they have one, sooner and then let the rest of the movie play out. Kind of like Snake Eyes. I know how maligned that film may be within some of the De Palma camp, but I for one thoroughly enjoyed it and like this film, it again had a significant chunk of the movie take place after the reveal.

    I will also second Stu’s question with regards to The Marine 2. Some of the scenes very goofy, some of the scenes very cool and the movie was all together entertaining. Plus, as a further connection to this website Reine (correct sp? I believe), the director of Pistol Whipped, was the director

  10. I do think knowing the twist would ruin watching this movie. I guessed the twist, but I also guessed three or four other possibilities and the movie made me second guess myself a few times and that was the fun of it.

  11. Can someone tell me what is up with Steve Zahn’s career? He’s a great character actor equally strong in comedies and dramas. He really seemed to have some forward momentum going in the early 2000s but he really fell off the map in recent years. Too bad. I always liked his performances.

  12. “But that doesn’t make any sense, unless it was the same characters in an unrelated adventure that’s the first part of a planned trilogy. But I doubt that’s something David Twohy would ever be interested in doing.”

    Excellent! Funniest thing I’ve read all week! {G}

  13. Any of you kids seen BELOW? I was really impressed by it when it came out, although I haven’t seen it since. It has a very unique structure and a great atmosphere, even if the end is a little cliched — cowritten by Darren Aronofsky of all fool people. And Holy Shit Zach Galifanakis is in it too. Weird. Plus, you gotta like a film where one of IMDB’s “plot keywords” is “grappling hook.” Anyway, That’s where I first really noticed Twohy as a guy who seems to really be trying to make something great every time he steps behind the camera, even if he doesn’t always quite make it. We need more B-movie guys who care, and Twohy seems to really be a great example of that ethos.

  14. Hey, I would pay to see further AMERICAN JEDI movies! The genius of A PERFECT GETAWAY (which I personally think is the best movie of 2009) is that at the very end – SPOILER – we understand that it’s a DIE HARD type of picture with Olyphant’s hero as the guy who has this type of shit happen all the time with him. Airplane crashes, shootouts, serial killers… Who knows, maybe this wasn’t his worst vacation?

  15. I think if they wanted to do a sequel they would have to do it UNDISPUTED style and make the victims of the first film become the killers in the next one.

    Or just totally piss in the audience’s face by doing another one of those Fight club/Secret Window/The Machinist type endings that doubles back on the first A Perfect Getaway to show that Steve Zahn and Milla were just the alter-egos of Timothy Elephant and Blonde Chick.

  16. I have to disagree with the positive sentiments above. While I enjoyed the twist a lot and the movie itself was alright, this really had the potential to be an awesome chase flick. The way they set up the fact that its an isolated trail to the beach thats like 10 miles long and has waterfalls and cliffs and stuff, I thought that after the twist reveal, there should’ve been a good 30-40 minute chase climax. I was hoping for something like Rambo or Apocalypto, where the special forces guy and his girl (or just the girl) are injured and have to make it back to the main road alive and outwit their pursuers in the process. Instead we get an admittedly good but short 10 minutes, and the main bad guy gets taken out in the lamest way possible.

  17. I liked Tim Olyphant in THE GIRL NEXT DOOR as the friendly/menacing porn producer. That was really the only good thing about the movie except for whats her name’s skimpy outfits.

  18. Timothy Olyphant’s character is the best thing about A Perfect Getaway. I love doing that SF, Joe Cool badass verbal beatdown to lesser minds myself; clueless civilians are always blown away when I remember what cars are in the parking lot, what kind of fire suppression system a restaurant has, and what cardinal direction I’m facing. Olyphant’s character is well-written, and he remains one of my favorite actors.

    The twist in the second half of the narrative is not all that clever, but the way in which it is presented and explained is creepy and well-done. The audience has no real chance to see it coming unless we grasp early on that we are dealing with at least a couple of wholly insane characters.

    It is refreshing to experience a scary movie that is not set in some void. Although the bulk of the action occurs on a secluded trail, there is an honest presence of police authorities, other people, cellular communications, and daylight that gives the whole thing an air of reality and separates this film from the many horror stories that rely on isolation, chance, stupidity, and darkness to generate scares.

    Anyone else notice that there is almost no mysterious darkness or absurdly stupid people in this movie? I liked the scene with the EMT, too.

  19. this was pretty great, but it was really low on my radar when it came out. a classic “wait till DVD” i thought. but after watching, it might’ve been pretty cool on the big screen. can’t win ’em all.

  20. “horror stories that rely on isolation, chance, stupidity, and darkness to generate scares. ”
    You forgot a network of underground tunnels.

  21. I figured out the twist fairly early into the movie but it didn’t necessarily ruin things for me. Olyphant was easily the best thing about the movie and his acting reminded me of a young Bill Paxton back when he was cool.

  22. Despite being somewhat let down by the movie, I will agree Olyphant was awesome in it.

  23. Twohy is good people. I really didn’t like Chronicles at all, but I thought the ending was great and if he reigns in some of his goofier impulses (Necromongers? Seriously?) I would happily support another Riddick movie. Not enough crazy, original B-movies with bald dudes with glowing eyes these days. Then again, if they were all over the place, glowing eyes would be devalued, like zombies are nowadays.

  24. I really liked the scene in Chronicles of Riddick where the guy walks out into the dust storm or whatever it is and is ground into a skeleton before he dissipates with the wind.

  25. Mouth- Yeah that was cool. There’s definitely a good filmmaker at work on that movie.

  26. Fun fact, movie was never filmed in Hawaii but Puerto Rico.

  27. yeah i enjoyed this movie a lot. caught it on a plane, as it never came out where i live. though i remember seeing commercials for it when i was visiting stateside, and then i looked it up on imdb and was like “holy crap, david twohy wrote and directed this!?!?” i had never heard of it before. twohy is very reliable. i have enjoyed on some level everything he has ever written and/or directed that i have seen. people here have been calling him a b-movie director, but i feel like he is more a guy who makes genre movies that exist somewhere between b and a movies. all his movies have these unexpected and great character moments and details that you don’t normally get in these kinds of pictures. but yeah olyphant is really great in this and is maybe the movie’s secret weapon. it was nice to be reminded that i actually liked the guy as an actor. i liked him in everything i had seen him in until a certain point (GO, “deadwood”) but i had forgotten the stuff i liked and thought poorly of him after LFODH and HITMAN.

    i also want to second whoever was lamenting the uninspiring trajectory of steve zahn’s career. he always gives a great performance in everything he’s in (yes, even NATIONAL SECURITY), this movie certainly included, but it seems like he has rarely gotten a role that fully takes advantage of his comedic and dramatic skill set. his performance in OUT OF SIGHT is A-MA-ZING. he takes a character that was probably an amusing but annoying goofball on paper and makes him both hilarious and oddly endearing. his comic-timing and delivery in that role are superb, but never at the expense of the character. he even has a moment or two in it to be dramatic in a convincing way (the look on his face when he unwillingly participates in snoopy’s gang’s butchering of the transvestite drug dealer). it’s really an impeccable performance. like i said, he’s always been good in everything else, but i wish i would see more roles like that from him.

  28. sorry, “LFODH” should read “LVOD*gunshot*”.

  29. I liked it a lot better than I thought I would, especially because it bothers to include scenes like the one where the two killers are fantasising about reality not exisitng when they aren’t present and then the film gives a weird visualisation to their rambling.

  30. Jimbolo,

    I dug a lot of those weird details too. I also liked the one killers weird explanation of “I’m not capable of loving you, but I love the IDEA of loving you.” There’s a sick logic to it.

  31. My theory for Riddick being Twohy’s worst movie is that it was a big budget event flick, and Twohy probably just didn’t have such a great control over it, or maybe he just didn’t quite know how to handle a film of that scale.

    But he is an EXCELLENT B-movie filmmaker, always trying to do the best with what he has. Below was already mentioned – A very good WW2 submarine horror-thriller. The first movie I ever saw from Twohy was the scifi-thriller The Arrival starring Charlie Sheen. I rented it back in the late 90’s and I expected to be pretty bad, and I was surprised in a big way when it turned out to be a really well written and well directed movie that did the absolute best it could with its low budget. You guys should definitely check it out, if you like scifi.

    Ignoring Chronicles Of Riddick, Twohy is one of the most reliable genre filmmakers around. His movies are not great, but they always range from good to very good, and he has the kind of sensibilities that I like.

  32. Oh and I think Diesel is probably at least partially to blame for Chronicles Of Riddick. The thing is, Twohy is clearly a hard-scifi guy. Both Pitch Black and The Arrival thrived to be scientifically believable. Vin Diesel on the other hand is a major D&D fantasy geek, and from what I’ve heard, he had a lot of influence on how the world and story of Riddick turned out. The problem with the movie is that it was too heavy on silly scifi-fantasy stuff, and too light on hard scifi. I mean, the best part of the movie – prison escape from the burning sun – was something that was very Twohy-like. It was exactly a kind of marriage of real speculative science fiction and popcorn thrills that he is good at.

  33. I dunno, man, I thought CHRONICLES was somewhere between decent and great. I don’t mind that it dips into STAR WARSish space fantasy since it delivers plenty of good ideas and fun sequences. I thought it at least as good as THE ARRIVAL (the final twist really kills it for me, and it was already pretty half-baked).

  34. I thought “Below” was pretty decent too – there is an excellent scare involving one of the characters trying to catch out his reflection in the mirror…

  35. yeah, i rewound and re-watched that mirror scare several times. “below” has a great cast. twohy casts really well, now that i think about it. he even managed to get a really good performance out of charlie sheen (for THE ARRIVAL), which i’m not sure i’d seen since FERRIS BUELLER (i should mention that i just saw THE ARRIVAL recently for the first time, so i am including all of sheen’s performances to date).

  36. Virgin Gary: Before this PERFECT GETAWAY movie came out, I seriously wondered if both Olyphant and Ian McShane were doomed to really crappy scripts after have such great material on DEADWOOD. Man that was a well-written show.

    Mr. Subtlety: Where on your decent -> great spectrum would you put Lynch’s version of DUNE?

  37. Shit, you know, it’s been so long since I saw it I couldn’t really say. I never read the Dune books and was more interested in Lynch’s LOST HIGHWAY mode, so I remember being kind of confused but mildly entertained. The only two parts I distinctly remember were where I recognized Sting and Patrick Stewart. Of course, this is probably well over a decade ago, in high school, before I knew anything about anything. Guess it’s probably time to revisit. If its as good as CHRONICLES it’ll at least be worth my time.

  38. i thought CHRONICLES was okay, very entertaining at times, overblown and a bit boring at others. riddick is a great character, and the prison break scene, and all the stuff between him and the mercenary chasing him, as well as the oft-mentioned race from the sun scene were all real fun. most all of the stuff with the necromongers was boring. um, too bad that was the main plot of the movie.

    once again, though, dave twohy scores a fantastic cast. keith david (granted, a hold-over from PITCH BLACK)! nick chindlund is good fun as the mercenary. i think karl urban is always interesting to watch. i am always happy whenever colm feore turns up in a movie (completely unrelated, but it suddenly occurred to me the other day that, after years of wracking my brains to think of an actor who physically could portray sherlock holmes as written and illustrated in the original publications, colm feore could be the man! as long as he could pull off the accent, which i’m sure he could… he’s probably the closest to anyone i can think of to being able to pull off a classic interpretation of the character. not that i am suggesting he should have been cast in the guy ritchie movie, that wouldn’t work at all obviously… ). linus roache (another actor who should have better roles in more movies – he was great in the lead in PRIEST and he even managed to make a really strong impact in his tiny role via flashback as bruce wayne’s dad in BATMAN BEGINS) makes his confused NECROMONGER both odd and likable. of course, you could do a lot worse than having dame judy dench in your movie. and it’s hard to imagine a character who could more fully utilizwe what vin diesel has to offer as a movie star than riddick. i am probably forgetting other good actors in the movie, but you get the point.

    jareth – yeah, while i think the cast for DEADWOOD was uniformly excellent, i think that dialogue would just sound great coming out of anyone’s mouth. you could probably make the cast of “7th Heaven” seem like the RSC if they delivered that dialogue (ha ha! i just chose “7th Heaven” randomly as a show with an ensemble of bad actors, but then i remembered that the dad from it was actually in DEADWOOD, and he was really good in it!!!). i remember when my friend first told me that both the lazy-eyed dude that shot wild bill and the rich asshole who likes to torture hookers (sorry can’t remember their names) were played by the same actor (garret dillahunt, of whom i have subsequently of course become a big fan), my brain almost exploded, kind of like when i was five and first realized that indiana jones and han solo were played by the same guy, well, okay, maybe not the same as that. and yeah, of course mcshane is always great. have you seen him in SEXY BEAST? i’m guessing you have. he is awesome in that nearlly perfect movie.

  39. I’ll have to se this, even though I now know what’s up and won’t have the pleasure of possibly figuring it out for myself. Then again, it might be fun to try to figure out if I would have figured it out.

    (This might be construed as boasting, but here goes: I unraveled the fabled Sixth Sense twist based on the trailer and a couple of reviews that said “watch out for the big twist!” There are only so many ways these things can go, and if you’ve seen An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Psycho and three or four seminal Twilight Zone episodes — and you’re at least half-awake — you’ve got got the necessary background to deduce ninety percent of them. Fight Club’s took me halfway through the film; it was a specific peculiarly-lit shot of Brad Pitt that made me say “hey, this guy does not exist.” See The Other — not to be confused with The Others — which leads back to Psycho.)

    You asked Mr. S, Jareth, but I’ll throw my opinion of DUNE out there anyway. As an adaptation of Herbert’s novel, it’s a confusing mess. (If they had let Lynch release his cut, it might have been less of one; he’s still so pissed-off about the experience and so unwilling to revisit it that that we may never know.) But as big-budget Lynch weirdness, it works on its own level. The best stuff in the film is the stuff he invented, like the shaved cat and the Baron’s skin condition and Brad Dourif’s mantra about juice and stains. And of course, the sets and costumes. I recommend watching it after 24 hours without sleep, like I did the first time.

  40. In some ways you are right frankbooth…. the most memorable parts of DUNE are non-canon. Like the crazy ass look of the Guid Navigator which is not even close to any descriptions in the books, but it ends up being really striking. I think the movie sucks out loud but I’ll still watch it occasionally, but then again I’ll watch BATTLEFIELD EARTH when it’s on TV too. I have a weakness for big-budget disasters.

  41. Virgin Gary: I have yet to see Garret Dillahunt give a poor performance. It amazes me how he managed to embody such terrifying physical threat in THE ROAD in such a brief scene. I do worry, however, that he might get typecast. As he demonstrated in JOHN FROM CINCINNATI, he can do more than just psychotic.

    FrankBooth: Any interview of Lynch that I’ve read, the only positive thing he’ll say about DUNE has to do with set design. And you’re right, the design is really something: I heard that a lot of those sets incorporated real woodwork carved for the film. They just don’t do that anymore.

    Mr. Subtlety: No one who is more interested in LOST HIGHWAY than in DUNE would be convicted by a jury of his peers. I think that LOST HIGHWAY is exceptional. I was just curious what you thought of DUNE because in my head it’s always seemed similar to RIDDICK, that is, ambitious science fiction failures.

  42. Jareth — you know, I just don’t really consider CHRONICLES a failure. DUNE, to my recollection, is sort of confusing and dull, where CHRONICLES tells a pretty entertaining, well-crafted Space Opera story pretty well. Except for Thandie Newton’s shrill and unnecessary role, I just don’t know what it’s failure is, unless you mean with audiences. I mean, its a somewhat silly tale (Necromongers and whatnot) but if you’re willing to accept it I think its a pretty fun ride, with a badass hero, a delightfully hateable villain, some fun ideas and some successful action setpieces. Also Linus Roache is absolutely brilliant in it. Somebody get this guy a big role!

  43. Weird to read that after just seeing the Crazies, because that’s another solid B-movie elevated by the strength of Olyphant’s performance.

  44. Mr. Sublety – Strange since CHRONICLES clearly was inspired by DUNE the novel, which unlike the David Lynch movie was rather captivating, imaginative, and quite intelligent. And certainly not boring.

    I dunno, RIDDICK isn’t technically a bad movie. But it just does fucking nothing to me. Yes on paper the ending is rather good, a teaser for a sequel with a Snake Plissken-type amoral bad mother fucker taking over a galactic empire.

    Too bad Riddick #3 apparently will ignore that aspect. Bullocks

  45. CHRONICLES was clearly inspired by DUNE the novel? How so?

  46. Rainman – Let’s see, a galactical empire fueled by a religious fanatical jihad…

    Come on do I really have to do this for you?

  47. RRA — I was referring to Lynch’s DUNE film, not the books. The books are a different story, but I hadn’t read them before seeing the movie, which struck me as interminable at the time. But then again, that was over a decade ago, so maybe I’d like it more if I revisited. It’s certainly a great concept, but it seemed like the execution was so obtuse it was almost SOUTHLAND TALES-esque, which also seems to be what I’m hearing from everyone else here. I’m certainly not adverse to it on a conceptual level, though. I’m always up for a baroque space fantasy with the balls to treat it completely seriously.

  48. Well maybe I didn’t watch CHRONICLES closely enough, I didn’t even realize the Necromongers were a religion. I figured they were some kind of zombie army or something. Closer to INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS than a religious jihad like in Dune. Didn’t they do some procedure or soemthing to make regular people into Necromongers even though they didn’t want to be? I guess I can see a little influence of Dune in the movie but Dune had such wide-ranging influences on almost all sci-fi from then on that it’s hard to untangle its influence from anything (STAR WARS has a huge empire based around a quasi-religion, too….)

    I actually get SERENITY and CHRONICLES mixed up sometimes, because they are extremely similar and came out kind of at the same time. Replace “Necromongers” with the dual threat of the government and the zombies in SERENITY and voila. The two movies are about equal in terms of holding my interest, too, which is to say “kind of held my interest but was kind of hoping for commercials so I could see what else was on”.

  49. Mr. S – I know you were, just making that observation of mine clear.

  50. SPOILERS – count me among the many on here who guessed the twist after the first scene, mainly because you only saw the back of the married couple’s heads during the wedding video, which gave it away that it wasn’t Zahn/Jovovich. (Simply omitting that back of the head shot would have actually worked better!)

    I think if the movie wasn’t framed as a whodunit, and more of a Straw Dogs/Hills Have Eyes horror meditation on class/society/manliness, the twist would have worked better, i.e. if we KNEW it was Olyphant and Sanchez the whole time, it’d be more of a shock when we found out it wasn’t. But by throwing in all those red “snappers”, like the other couples, it just sets us up to guess that there’s more going on than meets the eye.

    And even though I did enjoy it, I did think the twist wasn’t that novel – the only thing that made it much different was the real killers were aware of their actions and it wasn’t an alternate personality/blacking out type of thing.

  51. Did anyone here actually think the twist was that novel?

  52. Oh sorry there RRA, didn’t mean to offend. I shoulda stated that I meant alot of critics seemed to really think the twist was novel, like my local paper reviewer acted like it was some game-changer in the world of twists. Which thinking about it more, it actually kinda was, in the way Vern mentioned – a lesser movie would have ended with the reveal of the killers, then boom, the end. The fact that this one goes on for quite a while, and actually has the killers defeated and a happy ending is pretty novel.

  53. You didn’t offend me.

    Again, this is less about the supposed twist in itself and more about the journey up to it.

    Or basically the lower budget SHUTTER ISLAND of 2009.

  54. Ben Lyons thought the twist didn’t work because you didn’t see them take drugs in the first half of the movie. Just throwing that out there. I hate that guy way too much; it’s not even his fault really, it was the guys that hired him. Plus mine, for still visiting the AtTheMovies website back then.

  55. You know what Ben Lyons is? The still (sorta) young Rusty Venture of movie critcdom. Only known as the son of a famous critics and ridiculed as such and probably at this rate will never escape daddy’s shadow and become respectable on his own two feet.

    Can’t wait for the balding and banging the underaged fan club President.

  56. The original Paul

    October 25th, 2010 at 3:43 am

    Well I thought it worked well… the twist and the ending especially. And I’m kinda hard on endings nowadays.

  57. Saw this talkback and remembered I wanted to watch this, if for no other reason than to read the second half of the review and this talkback. I was very impressed by this. And having since read the rest of this review and talkback, I can’t believe no one mentioned the hand being chopped in half. I don’t squirm easy, but that grossed me out.

    Also, Olyphant gets cooler in everything I see him in.

  58. Watching this movie recently, I’ve been struck with how well Twohy managed to capture the image of a modern ex-Special Forces guy.

    In my life I’ve met a couple of dudes from elite branches of the military and they had the same ironic-and-cynical-but-in-the-end-totally-sincere attitude towards their jobs that Olyphant’s character has.

    After spending an hour or two around them you’d get exactly that “can’t talk about it but if I could you’d totally shit your pants” sippage of coolness: a drop of the lingo there, an observation on some safety procedure here… and sometimes you’d get a small glimpse of the horrors they’ve seen behind the purposefully outrageous stories and ALIENS references.

    Another movie that caught that stuff perfectly was THE MESSENGER, ‘specially in the beer scene with Foster and Harrelson.

    A rule of thumb is: if a guy talks about being an ex-Special Forces, he 100% isn’t. If he doesn’t talk about the nature of his service at all and turns all your questions into pop-culture jokes, you can be about 50% sure he was one in some shape of form.

  59. Late to the party on this one – just saw it on cable. I would LOVE for them to just do an unofficial American Jedi sequel movie. The character and performance are just to good to let go so soon.

  60. So during lunch I watched SPECIAL OPS, Tom Shell’s 2010 feature that won the coveted “Breakout Action Star” award at the prestigious Action-On Film Festival, according to the poster: http://www.imdb.com/media/rm4287201536/tt1237373
    I am a sucker for stories about “a true American patriot,” of course, and I like to check how the non-Bragg world perceives & depicts my co-workers. The perceptions are still pretty healthy, flattering even, but the depictions remain not quite accurate.

    For a while it felt like SPECIAL OPS was trying to check absolutely every block on my list of things that irk me in movies that show military shit. The following things were handled horribly wrong in terms of realistic American special ops depiction:

    Radio protocol [The first few words of the movie include 2 unforgivable comms faux pases (French plural for “cherry mistake”) that I hope an elite USMC combat arms commissioned officer would never make.]
    Weapons
    Weapons accessories (We see scope-cam for a couple of early kills from probably more than 200m while the shooter is on a boat – impressive! – but then we see that the weapon has no scope. Oops. Also, did the guy on the poster forget to remove the cover from his CCO? Oops.)
    Uniform (Is he seriously wearing that wristwatch during a day mission?)
    Squad movement technique (In sparse vegetation with likely enemy troops in the area, the wedge/diamond needs to be looser and someone needs to watch the 6 o’clock.)
    Frag grenade throwing protocol (This was the bad guys’ stupidity, so I forgive it.)
    Hand to hand Combatives technique (This was forgivable b/c some of it looked pretty cool and a lot of it made me laugh, but I doubt anyone got scraped or bruised by accident during the making of this film. Too much softness. Panna Rittikrai would be disgusted.)

    But I got over all that shit and enjoyed SPECIAL OPS largely for the unintentional comedy of it. The filmatists play it straight, and so they achieve some good laughs. The sound quality is dodgy, as Paul might say, but overall this is a decent production for what must have been a very small budget.

    I liked this bit of dialogue:
    “That’s my backup plan.”
    “You know, Caine, in my book plan B stands for bullshit!”

    At one point, the good guy’s wrists are tied up with some rope, so he uses spinning kicks to annihilate his captors, but the knot could have easily been undone with his teeth before he went into roundhouse mode.

    I did enjoy how he uses a pair of pistols basically as sai to fight against a guy who brandishes 2 machetes. Then after he uses one of the pistols like a set of brass knucks or a roll of quarters, he tosses it up, catches it, and all in one motion aims & shoots a couple guys 15 feet away. Not the most efficient weapons usage I’ve ever seen, but points for creativity, I guess. Maybe that’s what the Marine Corps teaches its officers. Bunch of fruits over there in Lejeune.

    There’s one of those scenes where the good guy is trying to figure out how he’ll infiltrate & eliminate the bad guys at the end and he somehow has a friend who links him up with a guy who has a box full of weapons, dozens of rifles with a magazine helpfully pre-loaded in them and whatnot. But for some reason, the good guy only takes one automatic (this time with a badass scope, thankfully) and a coupla sidearms with minimal amounts of ammo. Didn’t he see COMMANDO?

    All this reaffirms how excellent one particular aspect of THE PERFECT GETAWAY is. I’ll just refer back to my comment way above here and to Greedo’s comment and emphasize that Olyphant’s character is very well written and portrayed. It takes some nifty mental gymnastics and research for a Hollywood dude to write a character like that. Looks like a goddamn documentary compared to SPECIAL OPS. It was striking to me how almost uncomfortably identifiable Olyphant was, even though I’m more a city person who hates hunting or camping. I was like, “Whoa, they totally got this guy right. Lemme check, what did Timothy Olyphant used to do before he became an actor?”

    Somehow THE PERFECT GETAWAY remains the standard for realistic special ops guy depiction. That, and the first 2/3 of GREEN ZONE, like where the ODA choppers in and takes whatever the fuck they want and their badass leader says, “Have a nice war” and leaves. That was realistic & awesome.

  61. This movie to me was awesome. I watch it periodically, and enjoy picking up little things I didn’t notice before. The dialogue seemed innocent the first time between the main characters, but once I knew, I saw a clever second meaning. I agree that they kinda gave us too big of a clue (or two) but the acting made up for it. The ending was, as said, very touching.

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