We’ve all heard the story before. A botched group robbery leads to an unholy marriage between one of the criminals and a down on his luck “Joe” just trying to get by. From that point on, it’s easy to map out what happens next. Several films following this common pattern have found ways to surprise audiences and become landmark pieces, breaking the mold of what we know of as a thriller. Yet even though this writer was pulling for “Deadfall” (2012) throughout its entire running time, it simply failed to meet our expectations.
The film kicks off in an air of mystery on a snow covered road. Brother and sister robbers Addison and Liza played respectively by Eric Bana (Star Trek, Funny People) and Olivia Wilde (Alpha Dog, The Change-up) count their money in a getaway car moments before an accident happens sending them into the Michigan wilderness. As a result, the pair is forced to seek a way out of their jam by any means necessary. On the other side of the state, paroled criminal and former boxer Jay played by Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy, Children of Men) gets himself into trouble again just as he begins to get his life back together around the Thanksgiving holiday- an eerily reminiscent premise to the equally predicable film “Reindeer Games” made some twelve years earlier and met with strong criticism.
Once the accident occurs sending Addison and Liza in separate directions in the heavily falling snow, the viewer has very little time for actual suspense to set in. While 95 minutes is not necessarily a lengthy amount of time to tell a story, the mishmash of several popular action-thriller arches thrown at us all at once is both predictable and to a degree, feels repetitive. Moreover, the portrayals of police in this film, especially males are portrayed as misogynistic idiots. We are introduced to Hanna played by Kate Mara (Shooter, Transsiberian), a young female cop just trying to get respect. Unfortunately for her, Hanna is surrounded by a cookie cutter police force of catch phrase spouting co-workers hitting every cheesy mark from even the worst 80s cop flick. The biggest culprit of this comes from Treat Williams (The Late Shift, Deep Rising) who happens to be one of the best character actors working today. In “Deadfall” he is pigeonholed to be the typical sheriff who never listens to the highly capable Hanna regarding trouble afoot until the film nears its conclusion.
Although there may be issues with the structure of the film, there are some bright spots to be had. Eric Bana is truly on his own for most of the picture as the main villain and his performance shows off how truly dark of an actor he is capabale of becoming. Bana is lethal and mostly without morals throughout. Fans of hard R-Rated movies will also have something to enjoy here, as for the most part when something violent is taking place the camera doesn’t cut away from the bloodshed. Furthermore, setting “Deadfall” in the Michigan wilderness does provide a bit of a saving grace for the film. Heavy blizzard level snow is falling rapidly, keeping the characters indoors trying to discover each other’s motives.
Portions of “Deadfall” will work for most action fans on a basic level. It is certainly a movie which is best viewed on a Saturday night with a few beers with the guys. And there is really nothing wrong with that. The cast for the most part exceeds at doing their best with the material at hand, but in the end this flick will be relegated to the vault of common features who simply couldn’t find their own identity.
“Deadfall” starring Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde and Charlie Hunnam is rated R, has a runtime of 95 minutes and will be released on limited screens Friday, December 7th.
- Jay Rubin