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Friday, 14 December 2012 00:00

‘Deadfall’ is dead on arrival

‘Deadfall’ is dead on arrival Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
Written by Diane Carson
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About this Media...

  • Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky
  • Dates: Opens December 14, 2012

Relying on ludicrous coincidences in a predictable, badly written story, “Deadfall” offers sociopathic criminals fleeing across snowy Michigan for the U.S.-Canadian border. A sure sign of a lack of depth, about every fifteen minutes an expendable character gets shot or a sex scene intrudes. Nothing really works; it’s lame and superficial and dull.

The story begins in media res with Addison and Liza, a brother and sister team, fleeing from a botched casino robbery with a colleague, about whom we learn nothing. A chilling car crash leaves the siblings heading their own ways—no, this makes no sense, a pattern followed for the next 90 minutes. Cross cut to an Olympics silver-medalist boxer named Jay leaving prison, heading to his loving mother’s and alienated father’s isolated home for Thanksgiving.

These two plots will converge, of course, after a third group enters the fray: a police department as incompetent as the Keystone Cops complete with a chase, this one on snowmobiles, about as brainless as those in Keystone silent film comedies. A central conflict there features the sexist Sheriff Becker who insults his deputy daughter Hanna at every turn.

To ward off viewers’ laughter or perhaps the temptation to nod off, a pattern of jolting violence recurs at regular intervals, with little emotion despite some ugly moments. Meantime, Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky squanders the promise of interrogating charged emotional and psychological pairings. Though brother-sister, father-son, father-daughter and husband-wife relationships exist within the various subplots, the dynamic interaction and promising complexity of every one of them remains on the sidelines in favor of unconvincing action scenes. Similarly tone deaf, screenplay writer Zach Dean’s characters don’t converse; they deliver lines.

As the parents, otherwise fine actors Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson look lost. As Addison, Eric Bana makes a valiant effort but has little to work with. Olivia Wilde overacts, shape shifting like a chameleon through emotional changes while Kate Mara as the deputy does a credible job with an underwritten role. The acting talent is wasted because “Deadfall” is dead on arrival. At a Landmark Theatre.

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