Deadfall | Director Stefan Ruzowitzky | Score: 4.2
The snow swirls and the body count rises in Stefan Ruzowitzky’s lurid potboiler, but there’s nothing you haven’t seen before — only better written and more cleverly presented elsewhere. Imagine a distillation of past quirky thrillers involving numerous characters and intersecting plotlines, add in multiple viewings of Fargo, 2 Days in the Valley and Things to Do In Denver When You’re Dead, and top with Kris Kristofferson, and you get the idea.
Addison (Eric Bana, who might want to try a film that doesn’t involve him tasting his own blood for a change) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) are siblings on the lam from a casino heist gone wrong near the Canadian border in Michigan. Splitting off in the woods during a freak snowstorm, each finds their own destiny. While Addison kills and maims his way through the forest, hiding out where he can and stealing a Native American’s snowmobile, Liza slinks her way into the heart of a passing motorist, the former Olympic boxer Jay (Charlie Hunnam), who himself is running away from a possible murder scene. The two of them embark upon a whirlwind romance while Addison gets shot, loses a finger to a very sharp knife and is relentlessly hounded by the inept cops under an indolent sheriff (Treat Williams), whose deputy daughter (Kate Mara) he refuses to acknowledge.
In the course of things, we run smack dab into an assortment of clichés and stock characters and concepts: There’s the vaguely incestuous southern siblings, the sexist sheriff, the wise Indian, the preternaturally calm cop’s wife, battered wives, unstoppable blizzards, corrupt boxers, abusive redneck step fathers, ridiculously convenient geographic coincidences. All the pieces moving around not so much like a game of chess, but Chutes & Ladders with a particularly well-worn set of game pieces.
All of this nonsense builds up to one of the more ridiculous and unconvincing set pieces I’ve seen this year, with Addison, suddenly psychologically unstable and sadistic to the point of forgoing his own safety, leading a kind of redemptive therapy session with all the major characters sitting around a Thanksgiving table at gun point.
The script, by neophyte screenwriter Zach Dean, spends a good deal of time setting up its ludicrous climax, and more or less throws everything else into the anticipated bonfire. No amount of dramatic set-to’s and blood-on-white-snow cinematography can cover up the fact that the characters all appear to be sprung from a “Violent Quasi-Thrillers For Dummies” manuscript.
“This is kind of like an old movie, don’t you think?” Liza asks Jay shortly after they first meet. Perhaps, but not the kind of old movie that anyone would bother to watch more than once.
Piers Marchant is a Philly-based writer and editor, and the EIC (and film critic) for two.one.five magazine (215mag.com). His reviews can be found on 215mag.com and here. You can also follow him on twitter @kafkaesque83.
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