Movie Review by L.L. Soares


The new heist thriller, DEADFALL, is currently playing in limited release in cities throughout America, and going in, I was wondering why it didn’t have a wider release.

In it, Eric Bana is a guy named Addison. And as the movie begins, Addison is in a getaway car with his partner and his sister, Liza (Olivia Wilde) in the back seat. Liza is counting the money they got from a bank heist they just pulled off, when they have a car accident, flipping them off the road and into the snowy embankment below.

Addison’s partner, the driver, is killed immediately, but he is able to get out. As he’s struggling to free his sister, who is strapped in with her seatbelt, a cop shows up to investigate. Addison is afraid the man will arrest them, so he shoots him in cold blood. Addison and Liza then split up the money. He tells her to go out onto the highway and get a ride. He’ll plod on through the snowy woods, and they’ll get in touch later on, when he calls her on his cell phone. Then they’ll get across the Canadian border together.

But the thing is, it’s winter: the temperature is dropping below freezing, and there’s a blizzard on its way.

Liza finds someone to pick her up right away, an ex-con named Jay (Charlie Hunnam) who is on his way to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner. He’s an ex-boxer who got involved in some shady business with the mob  to get a shot at a title bout. Or something like that. Not only was he in prison, but he has been estranged from his father (Kris Kristofferson) for years. So it’s probably going to be an uncomfortable holiday. Oh, and Jay is also on the run from the cops after he clobbered his former manager and left him for dead.

Meanwhile, the local cops are on Addison’s trail. Led by Sheriff Becker (Treat Williams, who plays the role as a real ball-buster), the squad includes his daughter, Hanna (Kate Mara) who wants to join the FBI, and just passed the exam, but she’s been paying her dues on the local police force in the meantime, being treated like crap by her dad, who clearly wanted a son.

Hanna is friends with Jay’s parents, and they invited her to Thanksgiving dinner, since her only family is her ogre of a father. And of course, Jay’s parents’ house is in the same direction Addison is headed, as he evades police and racks up more bodies. And Jay and Liza are headed there as well, leading to a great big scene where all of the main characters are sitting around the table, preparing to eat the goose that Daddy shot.

The cast is pretty good here. I’ve liked Bana since the Australian prison movie, CHOPPER (2000), where he played the vicious killer, Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read. You might also remember him as the first Bruce Banner in a feature film, playing the role in Ang Lee’s HULK (2003), before Edward Norton or Mark Ruffalo got to take turns with the role. He was also very good in Steven Spielberg’s MUNICH (2005). And he’s good here, and believable as a cold-blooded killer, even if his accent is a bit uneven at times.

Olivia Wild is good here as well, as Liza. You might recognize her from movies like TURISTAS (2006), TRON: LEGACY (2010) and, more recently, COWBOYS & ALIENS (2011) and THE CHANGE-UP (also 2011). She’s sexy and vulnerable and often effective here as well.

Charlie Hunnam as Jay is also really good here. He’s best known as playing Jax on the FX biker series, THE SONS OF ANARCHY.

Another highlight is Sissy Spacek as Jay’s mom. She’s tough and smart and one of the better characters in the film. Kris Kristofferson, an actor I’ve always admired, is pretty much stuck in a thankless role here as a bitter, stoic old man. There’s not much for him to do except sit around brooding.

Kate Mara is good as Hanna, and I almost thought they were going for a kind of younger version of Frances McDormand’s character from the Coen Brothers’ FARGO (1996), except without the Minnesota accent, but the truth is, Hanna isn’t as developed as she could be. We know her father treats her awful. We know she’s a good person. That’s about it. And Treat Williams is pretty much one-note as her sheriff father, but it’s not like he has a lot to work with, either. He does what he can with an underwritten role.

So how is DEADFALL? Well, despite the solid cast I mentioned, it’s sadly not very compelling. Along with the bland title, it’s also got a pretty generic script. We’ve seen this kind of thing before, many times, and done better. Fugitive-on-the-run movies are a dime a dozen, and DEADFALL doesn’t do a whole helluva lot to stand out among the rest. And suddenly I realized why this movie is in limited release. Because, despite the talented people involved, it’s not all that memorable.

Director Stefan Ruzowitzky does a serviceable job. He previously directed the German films ANATOMY (2000) and THE COUNTERFEITERS (2007), but it’s hard to determine how talented he is based on DEADFALL, since screenwriter Zach Dean’s cliché-ridden script leaves a lot to be desired. Despite good performances, there’s nothing all that original about these characters, or the plot. And frankly, I was a little bored at times, especially in the middle. Not a good sign for an action/heist movie. The big finale at Jay’s parents house is good, but not good enough to make DEADFALL something special.

I give DEADFALL, two  and a half knives. Wait for it to come to Netflix or cable. It’s not horrible, but it’s also not worth the price of a movie ticket.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives DEADFALL~ two and a half knives


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