Deadfall (2012) Blu-ray Review: Nothing New Here, and Not Especially Well Recycled

Deadfall reminded me of a few other movies: The Ref (1994) for its hostage situation over the holidays, A Simple Plan (1998) for how to get away with a bunch of money in the dead of winter, and The Fugitive (1993) for relentless cops hot on the trail of a man on the run. However, it lacks any of the humor or wit found in The Ref, is devoid of the intricate storyline or raw humanity put on display in A Simple Plan, and the oafish cops act more like the lazy local guys Deputy Gerard told off in The Fugitive.

Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) are on the run with…someone (this third character is immediately killed off, never explained, and never referenced again) after lifting a load of cash off a casino somewhere nearby (the whole thing is vaguely set in Michigan). The complexity or scale of the robbery is never explained, so it’s not clear whether we should assume these are professionals or what, but Liza is clearly new to the game and just along for the ride, serving as “a distraction,” though her exact role is never explained, either. Ok, so we’re 60 seconds in and being asked to make a lot of assumptions so far.

Car crash and some unfortunate circumstances later, we find Addison and Liza in the woods, splitting up to try to keep her name clean. There’s suddenly some murky quasi-romantic thing going on between this brother and sister combo. I kept waiting to hear that they were step-siblings or one was adopted, but to no avail. You do learn later that Liza has some daddy issues, but she’s told so many lies and done so much “pretending” up to that point that it’s not clear whether we should believe her or not. As a writer, I was always taught to “Show me, don’t tell me.” The best you get about her daddy issues is some unmoving monologue.

Liza stumbles across Jay (Charlie Hunnam), who apparently just got out of prison for…something. Losing a fight on purpose, maybe? I didn’t realize that was illegal. Anyway, his first stop after flying the coop was to collect money from some boxing trainer, an altercation ensues, and the trainer is down for the count. Jay is on the run now, too (albeit a pretty slow-moving run) and….it doesn’t really matter. His story is puddle thin, and he’s really just here to be the mark that Liza uses to get to the border. Being a boxer, and having heard about how good he was (supposedly won a silver medal in the Beijing Olympics), you’re just waiting for him to unleash that notorious furious left hook on someone. He does square off with Addison eventually, but can’t use his left hand for the fight. Too bad.

So Liza seduces Jay to manipulate him into giving her a ride, then screws him in a cheap motel room repeatedly while pretending he’s her brother. If you work really hard (as my wife did, because she somehow came away impressed by this movie), you can try to connect the dots of Liza seeing Addison as a reflection of their unsavory father, which causes her to turn on him in the end. However, this is also confusing, as Jay had a choke-hold on Addison only seconds before, and Liza begs for him to be spared. She wasn’t saying “Spare him so I can kill the bastard.” She wanted him spared because he is her brother (insert touchy feelies). Then when he threatens her new boy toy, she pops him without a second thought. Thin, ridiculous, unbelievable.

Jay’s parents were entertaining, with tough-guy retired sheriff dad Chet (Kris Kristofferson) and homemaker mom June (Sissy Spacek) lending some respectability to the proceedings. Spacek in particular is cool as a cucumber under pressure, but when she snaps, she really flies off the handle. She was really the only character I liked. By the time Addison shows up, though, they just keep parading people into the danger within their home with no plan on how to subdue their perpetrator.

In walks deputy Hanna (Kate Mara), daughter to the overly protective and somewhat misogynistic current sheriff Marshall (Treat Williams). Hanna evidently also has some mild daddy issues to work through. They have very little to do with resolving the situation, but they stood in their places and played their parts as required.

Nobody else really adds up in this story, so what about the cold-blooded Addison? He seems to be in control most of the time, but one minute he’s shooting police officers and murdering people in the woods, and the next he’s stepping in to resolve someone’s domestic dispute. Yes, he needed a place to stay for the night, but was dumping the abusive step-dad’s body in the river and getting friendly with the mom and kids really the smartest move? And what’s with that kid who one minute is becoming BFFs with him, and the next is saying he’s “no angel” and rooting for him to get shot in the face?

There are a fair number of extras on the disc, including behind the scenes, production interviews with the cast and director, an AXS TV segment on the film, trailers for other recent Magnolia releases, and the feature’s theatrical trailer, and the flick looks and sounds good in 1080p with 5.1 DTS audio.

If you’re new to movies and aren’t sick to death of the many cliches on display here, you may enjoy this movie. I went in with high hopes based on the cast and my personal affinity for thrillers set in the snow and the challenges that setting presents, but this just didn’t work for me. There are a handful of tense moments, some gratuitous Olivia Wilde sex, and Sissy Spacek being awesome, but other than that, everything was pretty thin and underdeveloped. See 1998’s A Simple Plan instead.

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Mark Buckingham

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