Best known for the crime drama The Counterfeiters that won the foreign-language Oscar in 2008, Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky's Deadfall is his English-language debut feature. I was interested in seeing Deadfall since, despite despising cold, snowy Midwest winters, I have a fascination with movies that have a cold, snowy setting. Films like the Swedish vampire masterpiece Let the Right One In, or the Coen Brothers classic Fargo. Deadfall was obviously influenced by Fargo.
Eric Bana and Oliva Wilde are brother and sister on the run from a casino heist gone wrong in Michigan. An accident totals their car and kills their driver. They are left on foot in the cold, snowy middle of nowhere. Brother says split up and see who gets to Canada first. On the same day, Jay, a once-promising young boxer played by Charlie Hunnam, is released from prison in Detroit. Almost immediately, a twist of fate has him once again on the lam from the cops. Jay heads north to spend Thanksgiving with his mom and dad. Along the road, he encounters the sister nearly frozen in a fierce snowstorm and rescues her.
As you can tell from these opening scenes, everything depends on the right people being in the right place at the right time so the climax can sort out all the loose ends.
Dramatically, Deadfall is a bit haphazard, but the cast is not bad. The three principals do fine with their roles: Bana is pretty much psychotic and unstable, Wilde is fetching and confused, and Hunnam seems noble and repentant. The mom and dad in this tale are Sissy Spacek, who has little to do but does her best. She’s married to former sheriff Kris Kristofferson, who scowls and mumbles a lot. And like Fargo, there’s a female deputy, played by Kate Mara, who is a friend of the family. The current sheriff is more than chagrined that he has to have a female in his force, even if she is his daughter. That role is covered by Treat Williams, who hasn’t been seen in ages, and has maybe three scenes.
The cinematography by Shane Hulbut is fine and has some nice touches and the score is from Marco Beltrami who wrote the music for the Oscar winning The Hurt Locker.
All in all, Deadfall isn’t a bad movie, although definitely contrived. And it’s not really a good movie, as there are hundreds of better films to be seeing. But it’s an OK movie, and sometimes on a cold, snowy evening, that’ll do just fine.
It’s also an example of fairly low-budget filmmaking that doesn’t get much exposure. The R-rated Deadfall opened last week in New York and Los Angeles, and also on the video-on-demand pay-per-view systems on some cable and satellite providers. It will likely be available on DVD shortly. It’s not positioned to be a wide release, and I’m guessing it won’t show up in any theatres here. But every so often I like to check out one of these under the radar releases in the hope that one of them will turn out to be that unexpected pony under the Christmas tree.