Deadfall review (Blu-ray)

The Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky has shot a number of high profile features in Europe from The Inheritors to Anatomy (and its sequel) to the Oscar winning picture The Counterfeiters. For his English language debut, he’s assembled an interesting array of talent for this enjoyable yet flawed twist on the heist gone wrong scenario.
By twist I simply mean we don’t see the heist. We’re told early on that Addison (Eric Bana) and his sister Liza (Olivia Wilde) are on the run along with their cohort Theo (Dennis Lafond) after a casino robbery close to the Canadian border. With weather conditions bordering on a whiteout, a momentary loss of concentration sends their car hurtling off the road. Addison and Liza wake up dazed having suffered minor injuries, whilst their fellow thief Theo has been fatally wounded.

With hope of making it to the border, they decide that the best way of reaching it undetected would be to split up. They do so, and it’s not long before Liza has managed to hitch a lift with Jay (Charlie Hunnam). Recently released from prison, he’s on his way home to his parents (Spacek and Kristofferson) for thanksgiving, but prior to picking Liza up has already managed to run into trouble after seeking out one of the people that put him away. Jay seems a conflicted soul, a person who comes across as a decent human being yet one for who trouble seems to find him.

Addison meanwhile, hiking his way across the snowbound landscape comes across a cabin in the middle of the woods where he finds an alcoholic husband beating his pregnant wife in full view of their young daughter. Seemingly setting off painful family memories for Addison, he takes his vengeance out on the man whilst ensuring that by the time he leaves her she is comfortable and safe in the knowledge of a violence free future. Sticking with the family relationship theme, we find Sheriff Becker (Treat Williams) leading the chase for the two casino heist suspects, and part of his squad is his daughter Hanna (Kate Mara) who he subjects to a tirade of belittling insults.
Whilst family secrets and fraught relationships are the thread that connects the various aspects of Deadfall together, it’s frustrating to acknowledge the lack of depth given to the characters. With seven lead characters shoehorned in to a ninety minute running time we’re left very short of time to develop them. Coupled with this is the sheer convenience of many of the plot points, from Addison’s righteous woodland encounter to the very predictable denouement which you could likely bullet-point after about 30 minutes.

That said, I did find Deadfall to be a guilty pleasure of a film thanks largely to those seven leads being taken by such talented actors who would garner some interest in even the most mediocre of thrillers. Whilst two thirds of the movie left you wanting with regard to tension, the final third makes up for it just fine. Special mention too should go to cinematographer Shane Hurlbut who creates a beautifully cinematic white panorama making the movie visually lush.


EXTRAS ★★★ A nice pairing of featurettes – Snow & Western and The Family, coupled with interviews with Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde and Stefan Ruzowitzky.

Mark Brennan

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