A casino is robbed. The two men who rob it, along with one’s sister, are fleeing the scene. The driver, whose name is so unimportant you’re not going to remember it, winds up dying when their car crashes. The remaining two are the siblings, Addison (Eric Bana), who performed the robbery, and Liza (Olivia Wilde), who was eye candy. The police don’t know about Liza, so Addison suggests they split up. They’ll meet near the Canadian border, cross, and be home free. He will call her tonight; if he doesn’t, he’s been killed.
From here, the film branches out and follows not only these two people in separate stories, but also a former boxer who has just been released from prison, Jay (Charlie Hunnam), and a trooper who is continually put down by her Sheriff of a father, Hannah (Kate Mara), who essentially acts as a plot device to drive Addison from one location to another at one specific point in the film. Jay and Liza soon team up, meaning we only have to go back and forth between three stories, not four.
It’s kind of interesting how each of these stories takes a very different direction. Addison’s story is about a killer on the run who also might have a heart, even though he’s very deadly. It’s about him and nobody else. Liza and Jay engage in something of a romance. Hannah meets everyone in the small town and sometimes thinks about trying to find Addison — whose identity is unknown to the police; they just know somebody has robbed a casino and killed an officer of the law — before being told she can’t because she’s a woman.
Deadfall takes place in the winter, right around Thanksgiving. Of course it has to climax at a family home for Thanksgiving dinner. Part of the fun of the film is trying to figure out exactly how each of these characters is going to make it to the house that belongs to Jay’s parents (Kris Kristofferson and Sissy Spacek). we know Jay’s headed there now that he’s out of prison, and Liza is using Jay for a ride, but how will Addison and Hannah arrive? And who will get there first?
This is a movie that is bookended by a couple of great moments but most of its middle is surprisingly mundane. The opening couple of scenes, when the only characters we’ve met are Addison, Liza, and Unknown Driver #617, make for great suspense. We don’t know anything about them other than they’ve robbed a casino. They now have to survive in a harsh winter environment and somehow make it to Canada. The sequences at the end, at the family house, are funny and full of suspense. Addison isn’t a conventional criminal.
But Deadfall‘s second act? It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, and the mystery of the characters at the beginning loses its luster once we learn about the leads. The characters aren’t interesting in their own right, and they don’t become so as the film progresses. When we knew little about them, they were; we wanted to find out who they were, where they came from, and why they do what they do. Once we learn all of this, we find out that some things are better left masked in shadow.
This is supposed to be a thriller, one kind of resembling neo-noir, but there aren’t many surprises or even a whole lot of thrills to be had. There’s an action scene and the few scenes at the end are kind of fun, but apart from them we just get to sit through a mostly dull film that you’ve probably seen before. There’s a reason that Deadfall‘s theatrical release consists of a few smaller cinemas and a VOD release. It’s not good, interesting, or different enough to warrant a trip to the cinema. It’s barely worth a late-night rental when you need to kill 90 minutes because you can’t sleep.
In fact, if you can’t sleep, Deadfall just mig– I’m sorry, that’s too easy. I’m not doing it. That would likely be the type of joke that the writers of Deadfall might try to slip in, but not me. I’m all class.
Oh, who am I kidding? Deadfall can help you get to sleep. There, I said it. Just turn the brightness down on your television, because the snow-covered scenery, wonderfully shot, is bright and might risk keeping you awake. Speaking of snow, has nobody in this film heard of wearing gloves? I swear, only the troopers wear them, even though everyone’s always cold.
This is a B-movie with a pretty good cast, even though this isn’t an actor’s dream job. They all get to don Southern-ish accents — the film takes place in Michigan, which doesn’t really explain the accents, but whatever — except for Kate Mara who perhaps already paid that penance in Shooter (more fun than this). Eric Bana’s killer is interesting and enjoyable, Olivia Wilde’s femme fatale is … not really a femme fatale, but oh well, and Charlie Hunnam is lifeless as a former boxer.
Deafall is a mediocre movie bookended by a couple of great moments and containing a pretty solid cast with which the filmmakers do little. It’s atmospheric — the snow, I’m led to believe, is real — and shot well, but the plot isn’t anything new and the characters grow progressively less interesting as the film moves along. It’s not thrilling and it’s not engaging. It belongs on VOD.