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A Perfect Getaway (R) **½

By Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald

For a low-brow, psycho-on-the-loose-in-paradise thriller, A Perfect Getaway is surprisingly entertaining, with exactly the right elements to overcome the inevitable cliches. Cheap scares or such pointed lines as “Nothing bad ever happens in Hawaii!” prove no deterrent to brisk pacing, the sort of discerning gore guaranteed to elicit delighted groans but not nightmares from its audience, and at least one hugely enjoyable performance from an actor who may or may not be the bad guy.

As the film opens, honeymooners Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich) are heading out to hike the island of Kauai’s gorgeous Kalalua Trail. After an unsettling encounter with a menacing couple on the road — Cliff opts to pick up the hitchhikers, then weasels out of the offer once he gets a good look at them — the newlyweds learn of a gruesome double slaying from other young tourists on the trail whose cellphone hysteria would certainly incite me to murderous wrath.

They are, however, less annoying than Jovovich, whose giggly babbling early on incites an even more intense bloodlust. Please, you think. I don’t care how memorable she was in that Band-Aid get-up all those years ago in The Fifth Element. Let her be victim No. 1.

But no such luck. Cliff and Cydney forge nervously ahead. They meet Nick (Timothy Olyphant), another hiker, and decide to stick with him. Lean, muscular Nick has a nice-seeming girlfriend (Kiele Sanchez) and a suspicious supply of tall tales involving his exploits as a special-ops agent. He seems to know his way around a jungle, and how to hunt, and . . . say, is that a knife strapped to his leg?

One of the best things about Perfect Getaway, aside from its stunning shots of the island, is its sly sense of humor, and most of that filters through the excellent Olyphant (Damages, Deadwood), who seems to be enjoying himself tremendously here. Murder and mayhem do eventually ensue.

The film was written and directed by David Twohy, who had some serious atoning to do after his wretched exercise in sci-fi, The Chronicles of Riddick, a horror show of a different nature (though it did offer the shocking and hopefully never-to-be-repeated vision of Judi Dench and Vin Diesel onscreen together). A Perfect Getaway proves more than adequate as an act of contrition — and as a fun, if bloody, summertime diversion.

Cast: Steve Zahn, Timothy Olyphant, Milla Jovovich, Kiele Sanchez.

Director/screenwriter: David Twohy.

Producers: Robbie Brenner, Marc Canton, Ryan Kavanaugh, Tucker Tooley.

A Rogue Pictures release. Running time: 97 minutes. Graphic violence, language including sexual reference and drug use. Playing at: area theaters.