DEADFALL – The Review
Tightly paced direction and a stellar cast can’t salvage the lame new crime thriller DEADFALL. Though it functions as a diverting 95-minute machine, it’s got a half-baked script and a story that vanishes from your mind 10 minutes after the credits roll. Eric Bana is Addison, a mad dog killer on the lam with his sister Liza (Olivia Wilde) after a Michigan casino heist leads to a car crash that kills their third partner. Addison murders a state trooper and, with a deadly blizzard swirling around them, the two split up in the snowy woods and make a run for the Canadian border. Addison kills an Indian and steals his snowmobile. Liza flags down Jay (Charlie Hunnam) who’s on the lam himself, and a love affair immediately blooms. Police woman Hanna (Katey Mara) is the only one on their tails and all parties wind up at a Thanksgiving get-together at the home of Jay’s parents (Kris Kristofferson and Sissy Spacek) for turkey dinner and climactic bloodbath.
In spite of the film’s inherent badness, or perhaps because of it, there is a certain level of pleasure gained from watching DEADFALL. The film shows little or no inventiveness, but for those who go into it with expectations of a B movie, disappointment will be curtailed. There’s a gratuitous nude scene courtesy of Ms Wilde and quite a bit of violence – enough that DEADFALL probably won’t look half-bad when it finally makes it to cable TV, where it belongs in the first place. Some of the action scenes are well staged by Australian director Stefan Ruzowitzky (whose 2007 war film THE COUNTERFEITORS won the Oscar for best foreign language feature), especially a rousing snowmobile chase. It’s the script by Zach Dean (his first unsurprisingly) that brings everything down as the film quickly devolves into a generic chain of chases, bloody shootouts, angry confrontations, and showdowns. The actors can’t make much of the weak dialogue. Addison and Liza are from Alabama so they both speak in inconsistent southern drawls and the implied incestuous relationship between the two is more compelling than the romance that develops between Liza and Jay.
There’s evil and amorality in DEADFALL, sure, but it’s evil with a fashion-conscious, TV-aware, arthouse look. Olivia Wilde looks great in a mini-skirt standing in the snow until you start to wonder why she’s so underdressed in the first place. Her character looks soft and sweet sometimes, then hard and cruel other times. Bana as Addison is so blackhearted that you cheer when that doomed Indian slices his finger off and the character of Jay is given a completely extraneous backstory, introduced accidentally killing his former boxing trainer (or maybe not – it’s unclear) a couple of hours after being released from prison for throwing a fight. This has no bearing on the rest of the story but typical of a first-time screenwriter to try to establish a character with a big violent event rather than realistic development. The romance between Eliza and Jay is entirely too convenient and not especially believable nor is a subplot where Addison stumbles on a remote cabin at the exact moment a drunk abusive stepfather is forcing his wife and her kids outside into the deadly cold (that guy doesn’t last long). DEADFALL is a contemporary thriller yet female cop Hanna is treated like it’s the Eisenhower era. She’s ordered kept on the sidelines during the investigation of the trooper’s death by her cartoonishly sexist police chief father (Treat Williams) because she’s female. “What if you have to change your tampon?” she’s asked in a most awkward line of dialog. The only real surprise in DEADFALL is how such a talented cast failed to see what a miserable script they were signing on to. Since the screenplay is such a dog, the filmmakers wisely play up the weather. DEADFALL is set against the snowy winter of Michigan in a blizzard so thick that the police use snowmobiles to get around. Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut brings a wintry mood to a film that really does feel cold, and not in a staged, Hollywood sense (the film’s original title was COLD BLOOD). DEADFALL goes down easy enough but it’s a joyride without the joy and offers little to recommend…….except of course that nude scene from Olivia Wilde (which, for a lot of guys I know, may be enough).
2 of 5 Stars
DEADFALL opens in St. Louis today at Landmark’s Plaza Frontenac Theater