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'Deadfall': Slick, violent approach detracts from thriller's strengths

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By Robert Horton
Herald Movie Critic
@citizenhorton
Published:
A blizzard, a car accident and a garbage bag stuffed with cash: Say this for "Deadfall," it doesn't waste time getting under way.
We never see the robbery that put wads of money into the possession of Addison and Liza, the two people fleeing through a snowy rural area. By the way, they are brother and sister (played by Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde), an unexpected configuration that provides a newish wrinkle to a classic getaway.
Addison, a hardened criminal, instructs sis to head off in another direction, a decision that soon has her freezing on the side of the road while he goes off killing deer hunters for their snowmobiles.
She gets picked up by a boxer (Charlie Hunnam, from "Sons of Anarchy") who's got his own jailbird past, and the multiple story lines of "Deadfall" are off and running.
We meet the boxer's parents, played by Kris Kristofferson and Sissy Spacek, and even if they don't have too much to do in this film, it's rather nice to think of Kristofferson and Spacek married in the country somewhere.
Plus, there's a local police officer (Kate Mara) dealing with the chauvinist opinions of her father (Treat Williams). He also happens to be the police chief.
Family reunions are inevitable with this many relatives running around in the blizzard, and so is bloodshed. And for a while, it's engaging enough to watch how the movie is going to bring all of its main characters together in the same isolated farmhouse for a Thanksgiving dinner that will go down as one of the worst since "Home for the Holidays."
As quirky as first-time screenwriter Zach Dean's characters are (and Addison and Liza turn out to be very peculiar indeed), the movie eventually declines into the same old-same old. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky's approach is slick and violent, which flattens the characters into types we've seen before.
The main interest comes from allowing Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde -- two actors who have more promise than they're usually allowed to express -- to stretch out a bit. Wilde has played her share of icy roles, and the unstable Liza gives her many more colors to play.
Bana has played a Spielberg hero ("Munich"), the incredible Hulk, and a "Star Trek" villain without quite becoming a star. Maybe that's all right, because his inventive, loosey-crazy performance here is a reminder of what a talented actor this Australian is. He's the neon-lit draw of this otherwise unremarkable picture.
"Deadfall" ½
The aftermath of a robbery, as a blizzard closes in on a rural area and parallel storylines converge on an isolated farmhouse. Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde make an offbeat and sometimes electric brother-and-sister act, but eventually the slick, violent style erases the film's periodic moments of originality.
Rated: R for violence, nudity, language.
Showing: Varsity.
Story tags » Movies

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