Deadfall is a non-stop crime-thriller that gets off to a good start, then breaks away at the seams and ends with a weak conclusion.

For a crime-noir film set during Thanksgiving, this wild-goose-chase of a story is burnt to a crisp, and not in a good way. Cooking the goose, metaphorically speaking, is debutant screenwriter Zach Dean using a Fargo-ish plot on steroids. On the other hand, director Stefan Ruzowitzky puts together a non-stop crime-thriller with an anarchic perspective. Yet somehow, sticking with our culinary metaphor, it all feels like a turkey that you sink your teeth into only because it appears to be well done on the outside.

Deadfall concerns siblings Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) who are on the run after a successful casino heist. Their getaway car doesn’t make it through Northern Michigan’s infamous whiteouts. Forced to split up, they head toward the Canadian border, but Addison leaves a bloody trail that has Deputy Sheriff Hannah (Kate Mara) and her misogynistic father Sheriff Becker (Treat Williams) in hot pursuit. Meanwhile, Liza hitches a ride with Jay (Charlie Hunnam), an ex-con and shamed Olympic boxer, trying to turn over a new leaf. As fate would have it (or bad karma in this case), everyone ends up at Jay’s parents (Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson) farmhouse for that turkey dinner I eluded to earlier.

The film gets off to a good start before slowly breaking away at the seams. Dean’s premise is largely a moral dilemma that asks the question “To be or not to be”. In reference to the many sub-plots, with every fork in the road, there are clear signs indicating right from wrong, but everyone seems to choose the latter. Addison and Liza are siblings with a troubled past. This is no deterrent for the life they have chosen, but Dean manifests an incestuous sexual tension between the siblings, fitting only to the extent of a penguin in a desert. With Liza forging an unlikely romance with jay, the outlook jumps to redemption. As one of two silver linings, this is where the film comes full circle with dysfunctional family issues taking center stage. From Hannah and her sexist father, to Jay’s disconcerting issues with his father, in addition to other sub-plots highlighting domestic violence, the clichés start to pile on as a dark parody to the whole idea of Thanksgiving family gatherings. The second aspect worth mentioning is Bana’s taut characterisation of Addison with enough inner demons to call himself ‘an angel of death’. Addison’s transformation from an anti-hero into an impulsive serial-killer is as fascinating as it is frightening. As Jay’s mother June, Spacek is perhaps the only other actor with some form of relief in what is mostly a hackneyed mess. Even so, I found it quite disturbing the way June manages an eerie smirk when a shotgun is inches away from leaving her headless.

There is a lot of violence — made vivid with bloodshed on snow — and some frantic snowmobile chases that keeps the action moving at an acceptable pace. What Deadfall could have done without is a weak conclusion offset by a premise that isn’t keen to deliver on its promises, in addition to a series of unnecessary sub-plots. In the end, with the amount of plot stuffing, Ruzowitzky’s tries to cut a niche for himself, yet only manages to carve a turkey that is missing a leg or two. Good luck chowing down what’s left of it.

Rating: ★★½☆☆


About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.