Thanksgiving is one of America’s gifts to the movie world and Deadfall, a violent thriller from a promising Austrian director, joins a litany of movies (as diverse as Grumpy Old Men, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Hannah And Her Sisters and The Ice Storm) centred around this day of turkey and family squabbles.
Throw in some guns, as Deadfall does, and you’ve got a quintessentially American situation.
Brother and sister in crime Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) are heading through the snow for the Canadian border having knocked over an Indian casino when their getaway car is rudely interrupted by a moose in the road.
The accident kills their driver and, once Addison has dispatched a passing policeman, they have to hot-foot it through the wilderness. But not before it’s made quite clear that these siblings from Alabama peach country take a rather unhealthy approach to the idea of close family relationships.
Meanwhile ex-boxer Jay (Charlie Hunnam), fresh out of prison, heads home to reconcile with his parents, American farm couple-for-the-ages Chet (Kris Kristofferson) and June (Sissy Spacek).
Jay picks up Liza on the road home while Addison trudges through the snow-blasted landscape, causing mayhem with anyone who gets in his way.
Nearby, Sheriff Becker (Treat Williams) and his deputy and daughter Hanna (Kate Mara) are on the hunt for the cop killers – or at least the sheriff is, as he doesn’t want Hanna on the scene in case she suddenly has to change her tampon.
So three very different families, each with their own issues, head inexorably toward Chet and June’s homemstead in a whiteout, for what can only be described as a tense Thanksgiving meal.
For director Stefan Ruzowitzky, winner of an Oscar for best foreign flick in 2008 with The Counterfeiters, this is the first foray into the Hollywood big league – but he doesn’t seize his chance.
Presented with Zach Dean‘s decent screenplay, Ruzowitzky provides little tension, few moments of genuine drama and there are even a couple of scenes that could easily have hit the cutting room floor if Deadfall wasn’t already a sparse 94 minutes.
Bana and Spacek are alone among the cast in fully embracing their roles – Bana grabs at the chance to play an over-the-top villain, sleazing it up with his covetous glances at Liza and revelling in the violence. Spacek is great as a strong woman trying to keep things together.
As for the rest, however…
Kristofferson is as Kristofferson does, as much going on here as when he stares out from the charity shop record shelf next to Barbara Streisand. Hunnam has the brute force to be Jay but, when not required to be shouty, he’s all eyes-to-the-floor and the gamine Wilde is mostly engaging but her Liza is inconsistent – great when she’s at the centre of the scene but fading into the background when she’s not. Mara and Williams meanwhile are ill-matched, with the latter bringing little more than a counter-beard to Kristofferson, while the former makes you wish you were watching a good film about blood and snow.
Oh yah, Deadfall’s no Fargo. In fact, it’s not much of anything – an apple pie with no apples in the middle, a pot of cranberry sauce that’s only got scrapings left.
While it’s not quite a Thanksgiving turkey, it’s dry fare that could have done with some more trimmings.