Deadfall is a film that wants to be so many things. On the one hand it wants to be a noirish crime thriller, a snow-scape Western and a compelling drama with broken families at its core. But in trying to be so many things does it achieve all at once or fail to convince on multiple fronts?
Having recently pulled of a casino heist, brother and sister Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) fall foul to a car accident which leaves them stranded in snow covered Michigan. When Addison kills a cop, the siblings decide to spilt-up, Addison going cross country with Liza hitching a ride with recently paroled boxer Jay (Charlie Hunnam). Jay’s on his way home for Thanksgiving dinner with alienated father Chet (Kris Kristofferson) and protective mother June (Sissy Spacek). Meanwhile, local cop Hanna (Kate Mara) finds herself excluded from the manhunt for Addison by her pigheaded father Sheriff Marshall T. Becker (Treat Williams). As the chase heats up so the temperature drops in time for all to meet for the family get-together from hell.
Set in Fargo country – wherein the locals end their sentences with “Ay”, most seem to have a drinking problem and the snow is thicker than the accents – Deadfall wants to be a serious version of The Coen Brothers’ crime thriller. Alas, for all the almost interesting characters it throws up, the film struggles to address a coherent whole. At one point Liza turns to Jay and says; “This is kind of like an old movie don’t you think?” and therein lies Deadfall’s biggest problem; in trying to achieve so much it fails to fully realise anything.
For the most part it feels like it should be a ten episode television series rather than a ninety-minute film. Too many characters are introduced and far too many plot points are raised that bear little relevance to the outcome of the film. Why is it that Jay has recently killed his former boxing promoter, why do we care that Hanna has just been accepted into the FBI academy? More than anything; why ask these questions to then ignore them come the closing credits?
Director Stefan Ruzowitzky makes the most of the stark white setting and manages to find moments of interesting character interaction amid the pedestrian manhunt that never offers the thrills it presumably intended.
Bana brings his usual levels of screen presence to Addison, his early scenes with Wilde offering something much more interesting, a prospect that the film never delivers on. Wilde, for her part, does a good job, early on as the femme fatale of the piece before descending into hapless girl-mode due to the rippling muscles of Hunnam, presumably, although even this part is unclear, as Liza seems to see him as nothing more than a ride (pun sort of intended) early on. Mara’s Hanna is so wet you wonder if she should be back in kindergarten rather than about to embark on a career with the FBI. Hunnam continues to struggle outside of his TV home that is Sons Of Anarchy, you can only hope his recent casting of Julian Grey in Fifty Shades Of Grey can help ignite his lagging film performances. Spacek and Kristofferson meanwhile are typically solid, the former part of the most interesting scene when she first encounters Bana’s psychotic but good-natured killer.
With a cast this good and a setting this inspiring it’s a wonder that Deadfall collapses so horribly under the weight of its own script. Like the locations this family thriller will leave you cold and confused.