Deadfall is a small, snow-laden crime thriller that never comes into its own.
This indie thriller is chock full of names and that’s probably because director Stefan Ruzowitzky’s last film, the German language The Counterfeiters, was a critical hit, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Unfortunately what should be his entry into Hollywood with his English language debut never gels. It has all the makings of a great thriller that recalls the B pictures of the ’70’s, including a great lead performance by Eric Bana, but it’s never able to turn up the tension and pull all it’s loose ends together.
It’s the type of film that attempts to pull multiple story lines together, anchored by a casino heist gone wrong by brother and sister duo Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde), which culminates in a scenario which finds all of the characters together in what should be a surprising and satisfying showdown. On the surface, it’s an interesting story but it’s bogged down by uninteresting characters and a persistence of importance that’s never earned. While Bana is able to lift his character out of obscurity and imbue him with a sense of sympathy despite slowly becoming the film’s villain, most of the other characters fall flat.
After Addison and Liza’s getaway car crashes in the wilderness during a blizzard, they decide to split up and meet at the Canadian border. On the verge of hypothermia, Liza is picked up by recently paroled ex-con Jay (Charlie Hunnam). Their relationship becomes the heart of the whole film but it just never has any urgency. Similarly, the story of Hannah (Kate Mara) who’s the daughter of the Sheriff Becker (Treat Williams), and also a deputy, just has no meaning. Being the only woman on the force, her father treats her like dirt. It’s obvious that this will come into play when she makes some big move, ostensibly with Addison, but it feels cheap and clichéd. Just as her story of showing her father feels forced, so do many of the plot’s aspects. Many of the characters cross paths, like that of Jay’s parents June (Sissy Spacek) and Chet (Kris Kristofferson) — who also just happens to be a retired sheriff — with Hannah but they never feel organic.
Ultimately, the problem is that of Zach Dean’s script which has all the makings of a great thriller but plays out like a first draft. Ruzowitzky also deserves blame for not being to take what could be a good story and littering it full of famous faces but doing nothing with the story. It’s an interesting watch for what could have been and a lesson in what isn’t.
Rating: 2 out of 5