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By Philip Martin

This article was published December 28, 2012 at 12:32 a.m.


Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) are siblings with a creepy close relationship in the bloody thriller Deadfall.

— Deadfall

82 Cast: Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam, Kate Mara, Sissy Spacek, Kris Kristofferson, Treat Williams Director: Stefan Ruzowitsky Rating: R, for strong violence, language and sexuality Running time: 95 minutes

An excellent cast and an admirable refusal to give in to its audience’s pleas for relief from its blue-gray bleakness aren’t enough to raise Stefan Ruzowitsky’s Deadfall above your run-of-the-mill snowbelt-set nihilistic noir. It’s not bad, it’s just not the film we (or presumably the filmmakers) hoped it would be.

There’s a lot of aspiration on display here — Ruzowitsky, an Austrian who won a Best Foreign Language Oscar for The Counterfeiters in 2008, has a sense of style and a wry way with the violence that permeates the film. The brutal script, by Zach Dean, feels like a lost Jim Thompson artifact, albeit one in which some of the plot twists announce their implausibility a little too loudly. Trim things back a hair or two — reduce the body count and play down (but don’t lose) some of the more goth- ic elements and you might have a superb psychological thriller here.

There's an excellent framework in place here: Deadfall is really a Freudian study of three families, all unhappy in different ways (though they all feature patriarchs):

There’s the creepy, possibly incestuous relationship between brother Addison (Eric Bana) and sister Liza (Olivia Wilde) who, after robbing an Indian casino in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, crashing their getaway car and killing a state trooper, are forced to split up and make their separate ways through a blizzard to the imagined sanctuary of Canada.

Then there’s Jay (Charlie Hunnam), an ex-boxer who took the silver at the Beijing Olympics, only to fall from grace and land in prison. He gets out and — after violently debriefing a guy he feels betrayed him — heads toward his parents’ — retired Sheriff Chet (Kris Kristofferson) and June (Sissy Spacek) — farmhouse for Thanksgiving dinner.

Then there’s the sexist bully of a local sheriff, Becker (Treat Williams), who has mobilized his force to go after the cop-killing casino robbers, and his doe-eyed deputy daughter Hanna (Kate Mara), who bristles at her father’s orders that she provide support.

As the alternately courtly and unhinged Addison cuts a bloody swath through the snow, Liza, in a spangled miniskirt, insinuates herself into first Jay’s truck cab and then his bed (and possibly his naive country heart). All the paths converge on Chet and June’s place.

There’s plenty amiss here — Bana’s Alabama accent is unconvincing and arch, and the character comes off as one of those guys who only thinks he’s always got something clever to say. But it’s not so much Bana’s fault as it is his dialogue; his lines simply aren’t as sharp as everyone seems to pretend.

Similarly Wilde and Hunnam are all right as a damaged couple, though there’s nothing about their coming together that makes sense. Why would Jay pick up a hitchhiker when he’s running from the law? And, under the circumstances, why would he even be headed back to the family homestead and his estranged, ex-sheriff father?

The short answer is that we wouldn’t have much of a movie if things didn’t play out this way, though some moviegoers are bound to perceive the enterprise as a waste of a decent cast. (And some excellent, blue-toned cinematography by Shane Hurlbut.)

MovieStyle, Pages 27 on 12/28/2012

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