Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Starring: Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam, Kris Kristofferson, Sissy Spacek
Stefan Ruzowitzky’s thriller Deadfall is something we’ve seen before: a group of people’s lives intertwine together during a massive storm. Sometimes it’ll even make for an interesting film. These films often carry pertinent themes such as the nature of fate, the interconnectedness between people, and in the case of Deadfall, redemption. Starring Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, and Charlie Hunnam, this clumsy genre piece attempts to do the same, but it ultimately ends up falling victim to its own devices. Bana and WIlde play siblings who rob a casino and are now on the run to Canada, before a heavy winter storm hits. While Bana is usually an impressive lead, his acting prowess is hardly on display here. His short-lived appearances are forgettable and Ruzowitzky seems incapable of bringing out Bana’s potential. For the other two leads, Wilde and Hunnam– in spite of their ample screen time together–seem to lack any kind of chemistry together. You never get the sense anyone is in any danger, whether it be being caught by the police, or otherwise.
It opens with a deadpan, Southern-tinged voiceover by Addison (Bana), who speaks about home wistfully. As soon as Addison and his sister, Liza (Wilde), feel they’ve made their escape, they hit something in the road and it causes them to spin out into a ditch, killing the driver but somehow the siblings escape unscathed. On the other side of town, an ex-boxer named Jay (Hunnam) is released from prison based off of good behavior. He returns to his trainer who presumably screwed him over, they get into a scuffle and it leads to Jay believing that he’s killed the man. Naturally, he refuses to go back to prison, so he flees the scene. Hunnam’s performance is forced, and driven by how often he can ‘indicate’ with his eyebrows. All of this seems to unfold quite naturally, and in some ways, it makes for a decent set-up. Unfortunately this is as far as it goes. There are many, many missed opportunities that could have led to some great drama.
In spite of the beautiful, snowy landscape, Ruzowitzky is about as interested in making us feel involved with the setting as he is with bringing out the best performances from his actors/actresses. Unlike The Grey earlier this year, he is not concerned with how the landscape effects these people. Indeed it does, it alters the story and is a major plot point. All of these characters are isolated in their own respective ways, but it never really feels like that. Part of Liza and Addison’s plan was to separate, then find their own way to Canada, so they can meet up there. Jay comes upon Liza, who’s stuck out in the storm. They are then stranded at a local bar. Of course, as part of her plan, she hits it off with him in order to hitch a ride to Canada. Wilde makes every attempt to make us believe that she’s tempting him. Bana is largely left alone throughout the film. Zach Dean, the movie’s writer, makes some headway in opening him up. Instead of taking him further and allowing him to evolve, he makes some bizarre decisions. There’s no sense of thru-line to his character, or any consistency. It’s all over the place.
In the end, what Deadfall doesn’t accomplish much. The ending makes very little sense and it left me cold. Much like the characters, I was left detached and uninvolved. Ruzowitzky makes some uninspired directorial choices that feel like rehashes from some other film. There’s nothing to separate this from any other standard thriller. Jay and his father, Chet (played by Kris Kristofferson) leave us knowing very little about their relationship. Even the final showdown between all of the characters feels lazy and contrived. I haven’t seen any of Ruzowitzky’s other films, but if this is any indication of what I’m in for, then I’ll certainly pass.