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2012 | 95 min | R | 2.39:1



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Theatrical release date

 07 December, 2012
 10 May, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

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Screenshots from Deadfall Blu-ray

Deadfall Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, November 21, 2012

“Deadfall” is troubling on a variety of levels, with its general ineffectiveness taking a top position of concern. Populated with troubled, violent characters who march their way through slight but intriguing emotional barriers, the feature captures a stimulating feel for a multi-character design of dysfunction. It’s director Stefan Ruzowitzky who doesn’t mastermind a stable approach, failing to juggle the subplots in a substantial manner, making the movie more about minor moments with overly agitated characters. A few striking scenes of snowscape conflict and familial discord bring appealing poison to the proceedings, but the overall viewing experience of “Deadfall” triggers substantial frustration as it winds through a bizarre string of encounters without ever stopping to figure out a fulfilling narrative direction.

Surviving a car accident after pulling off a casino heist, uncomfortably close siblings Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) are forced to separate to help survive in the deep Michigan woods. Using brute force, Addison works his way to shelter, ending up recuperating from his considerable wounds inside a remote cabin home to a single mother and her two children. Liza nearly freezes in the cold, picked up by parolee Jay (Charlie Hunnam), who’s just killed his former boxing coach. The two play games of identity but soon warm up to each other, with Jay hoping to bring Liza to his family home, where mother June (Sissy Spacek) and father Chet (Kris Kristofferson) await the return of their boy. Also roaming the area is cop Hanna (Kate Mara), who desperately wants to join the manhunt for Addison, only to be denied the duty by her father, Sheriff Becker (Treat Williams). As they day wears on and a local blizzard intensifies, Addison seeks a new place to hide out, taking June and Chet hostage as a tense Thanksgiving dinner commences.

“Deadfall” is pulled in numerous directions by first-time screenwriter Zach Dean, who aims to concoct a noirish take on the dissolution of a criminal enterprise, following the participants as they struggle to maintain focus on the disease at hand. It’s a film that slowly braids subplots together for the first two acts, tracking the characters’ separate activities before they meet up for a particularly brutal Thanksgiving meal, paying off all the concerns and discomfort that’s been building for an hour of screen time. Trouble is, “Deadfall” doesn’t provide enough storytelling clarity to encourage a deeper inspection of the puzzle pieces, with Dean and Ruzowitzky cutting these personalities too lean, leaving only basic psychological wounds to study. It’s a simplification of conflict that’s amplified with violence and a dusting of weirdness (Addison’s exaggerated, finger-slicing tangle with a Native American being a particular concern), yet the whole thing feels shallow, electing style over substance.

Despite a crowded field of players, “Deadfall” feels strangely uneventful, an atmosphere encouraged by a few flat performances, including Hunnam’s strictly surface work as angry son Jay, who’s haunted by past mistakes yet tamed by Liza’s romantic interest. Dean attempts to pass off the pairing as a love story between needy strangers, while Ruzowitzy scrambles the message with overblown sex scenes, effectively shutting the movie down. The story is more stabilized with the cops, finding Hanna’s tale of frustration with her protective father perhaps the most effective examination of a beaten soul, with the young deputy caught between her parental devotion and her ambition to join the F.B.I., a move hastened by her father’s insistence on public humiliations. Also winning is Spacek’s thespian confidence, making something out of June’s one-dimensionality, stealing scenes with her effortless communication of the mother’s grace under pressure.

Climaxing with a bitter Thanksgiving meal featuring Addison and his growing collection of hostages, “Deadfall” aims to pop the tension with a series of confrontations, apologies, and threats around the dinner table. It’s a dramatic concept with potential, yet without a profound examination of the characters (there’s a whole movie waiting to explore Addison and Liza’s sexually tinged “family” dynamic), it’s a lost cause. “Deadfall” is a film of shootouts, snowmobile chases, anguish, and forgiveness. That it rarely lingers long enough to soak up its ample mood and process intricacy of behavior is baffling.

Starring: Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam, Sissy Spacek, Kris Kristofferson, Treat Williams
Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky

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