A crime saga cobbled together from scraps of genre predecessors, Deadfall's unbelievable silliness escalates at every turn. The Counterfeiters director Stefan Ruzowitzky's film starts promisingly enough, with Addison (Eric Bana), his sister Liza (Olivia Wilde) and a driver heading to the Canadian border after a lucrative casino heist, only to find their path made more difficult when their car crashes, they commit murder, and then are forced to flee into the wintery forest. Liza's come-hither look to her brother while changing clothes suggests incestuous desires which are complicated once they separate and Addison takes refuge at a remote family's cabin while Liza is picked up by Jay (Charlie Hunnam), an Olympic boxer just out of prison for throwing a fight and already back on the run thanks to an accidental killing. That Jay and Liza are both lost souls trying to right past wrongs is too convenient by half. However, that's indicative of Deadfall's plotting, which increasingly leans on handy coincidences, preposterous behavior and changes-of-heart to bring together its various players, who also include Jay's estranged dad (Kris Kristofferson) and pie-making mom (Sissy Spacek), as well as a local cop (Kate Mara) and her sheriff father (Treat Williams). Devoid of either suspense or originality, it'll be hard for this caper to scrounge up much dough at the box office.
Addison is a sadist who masks malevolence behind a good-natured smile, and after losing his pinkie in a scuffle over a snowmobile—a bit of castration symbolism to foreshadow his dwindling lack of control over Liza—he takes refuge at a home where he offs an abusive stepfather to save a mother and her two daughters. That protective act parallels what he did years earlier to save Liza from their abusive father (he even calls the older girl by his sister's name), yet such mirroring has no real resonance, since Bana can't quite muster the malice that the character requires; his nasty streak seems far less credible than his more personable side. Meanwhile, Wilde kicks off her rapport with Hunnam by exuding a fantasy-role-playing sensuality that thrillingly suggests femme fatale deviousness. Alas, that initial excitement is stamped out by Zach Dean's screenplay, which—once Liza and Jay find themselves trapped by a blizzard at a roadside bar—turns everyone's motivations one-dimensional. There's no fatalism, no cynicism and no ambiguity to Deadfall's tale, and the result is a slow descent into traditional lost-souls-find-each-other amour and laughable third-act conflict that's a letdown from the opening passage's intimations of twisted psychosexuality.
If Liza and Jay's relationship is simplistic, it's still more nuanced than Jay's stock rift with his dad and officer Hanna's (Mara) problems trying to please her sexist sheriff-father (Williams)—the broad strokes are cartoonish. As characters make consistently unwise decisions that place them in perilous positions, Deadfall pays less attention to authentic human thought and conduct and more attention to checking clichés (gun stand-offs, hostage situations, love triangles, father-son clashes) off a to-do list. Culminating around a Thanksgiving dinner feast, the story ultimately devolves into senselessness, to the point that Addison and Liza's primary goal of getting across the Canadian border winds up being wholly ignored by everyone involved. Instead, they're all just too busy hashing out their rote issues with each other, with any tension negated by the fact that Ruzowitzky—via his action's basic black-and-white dynamics—can't mask the tidy resolutions he has in store for his well-meaning innocents and faux-intimidating villains.
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Cast: Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam
Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Writer: Zach Dean
Producers: Shelly Clippard, Ben Cosgrove, Mark Cuban, Gary Levinsohn, Todd Wagner
Rating: R for strong violence, language and sexuality
Running time: 94 min.
Release date: TBA