[Review] – Deadfall

13 Dec


Title: Deadfall
Year: 2012
Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Writer: Zach Dean
Starring: Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam, Kate Mara, Treat Williams, Kris Kristofferson, Sissy Spacek
MPAA Rating: R, strong violence, language and sexuality
Runtime: 95 min
IMDb Rating: 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 31%
Metacritic: 54

Deadfall is the kind of movie I saw purely based on the names attached to it. I hadn’t seen a single trailer before it, not read a single interview about it, it was flying seriously low under my radar, but when I saw the names I figure I’d at least give it a fair chance. The film comes from Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky, who’s 2007 effort The Counterfeiters won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and even though the movie’s made up of things we’ve all seen done before (and done better) there are some parts of it that are actually quite riveting, the talented cast surpassing the limitations brought forth by the mediocre screenplay.

That screenplay tells the story of Addison and Liza, played by Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde respectively, a pair of siblings who are on the run after a botched casino heist. Their wheelman is killed in a car accident that also leaves a state trooper dead in its wake and they decide to split up and make run for the Canadian border, all of it while having to deal with mother nature, who’s dealt them a near whiteout blizzard. The plotting from there grows a bit absurd, trying to bend itself over to check boxes out of every neat coincidence needed to make this work as a melodrama that also manages to become a (very much) clichéd noir kind of movie.

So the film really is pretty much the actors and director against the screenplay, a battle of wills trying to see who will end up on top in the end. I’m of the opinion, actually, that this works more than it doesn’t. You won’t see this one pop up anywhere near the top of my year-end Best Of list when I get around to making that sometime next month, but I think that with a good screenplay this actually could have been great. What we get now, however, is a movie with a filmmaker that knows how to craft a great chilly atmosphere in this thriller, clearly showing passion for this genre and delivering a really neatly-paced movie and a cast that’s usually relegated to supporting jobs all trying to one-up each other.

That cast, like I said, is the reason I decided to see this one at all in the first place. Mr. Bana has actually top-lined movies himself but never really stuck as a movie star, even though he has the looks and charm for it, yet he’s still an actor that I pretty much always enjoy watching and seeing him work; Olivia Wilde with the right role can be really good (which is why she was so good during her arc on House) and here she nails the balance of sexy and dangerous. The rest of the cast is filled out with Charlie Hunnam, who’s one of TV’s best actors in the great Sons of Anarchy; Kate Mara (Rooney‘s sister) who’s been pretty good at times; Kris Kristofferson and Sissy Spacek, who’ve been around forever and with good reason.

You have to really look beyond the typical stuff this movie offers to see what’s good about it. Sure, you have two characters who are stranded in the snow after doing a dirty deed and they’ll meet other characters and in the end it’ll all converge in one way or another. Mr. Hunnam plays this guy who was once a great boxer but who’s just released from prison and is making the drive back home to a tense Thanksgiving with his folks, the roles played by Mr. Kristofferson and Ms. Spacek, and as he’s driving he sees Ms. Wilde hitching a ride and you can probably fill in the blanks after that.

Yes, from what I’ve told you you get the kind of movie this is and you’re probably thinking you’ll skip it because, yes, you’ve seen this all before. You won’t be surprised by what happens to these characters, but you probably will be by how it’s all executed. Mr. Ruzowitzky really knows how to handle the cold scenery here, he makes it all feel really awesome and kind of creepy, and even though you know just what’s going to happen here the tension that’s created it still hard to dismiss and really looms over the entire picture.

Give Deadfall a chance, is what I’m trying to say. It will evoke memories of some old classic noirs and it’s made by a director with heaps of talent who makes some real good use of his locations, splattering red blood on that white snow. Not a single development here will surprise you, especially not the conventional ending with everyone converging in one place, but the way it’s all crafted is worth it. You know what’s also worth it? Seeing Mr. Kristofferson and Ms. Spacek act with each other, their first scene together which is so quiet and ordinary has this really great power over it.

I’m giving this one a pass. It’s not great, you probably won’t watch it again or buy it on Blu-Ray or anything, but it’s a film that, coming out in a December crowded with potentially great, award-worthy films, is bound to get lost in bunch, and maybe it shouldn’t. May it should be seen and explored to see a director who I hope continues growing in stature with a cast that is made up of talented actors who didn’t really quite have the chops to make it. Though, to be fair, Mr. Hunnam, even though he’s probably just the fifth of sixth best thing about this movie, still has a decent shot at making it big-time: watch out for next year’s Pacific Rim.

Grade: B-


One Response to “[Review] – Deadfall”

  1. insiderhedge December 13, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    Reblogged this on Parrot Reviews.

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