Antiheros can be a blast to watch on screen; there’s just enough heart to them to get you on their side, but at the same time, they’re deplorably ruthless. So is the case with Eric Bana’s Addison in Deadfall and on top of having him whip your perception around incessantly, there are a number of other lives at stake, making the situation wildly unpredictable and unnerving.
Bana and Olivia Wilde are Addison and Liza, a brother and sister that just wrapped a successful casino robbery. While trying to make their escape to Canada, their getaway car crashes, leaving their driver dead and Addison and Liza no choice, but to evade the police by foot.
They split up, Addison heading into the woods and Liza taking the road. Lucky for Liza, as a blizzard sets in, she comes across Jay (Charlie Hunnam), an ex-con heading home for Thanksgiving, and hitches a ride to a nearby hotel and bar to wait out the storm. Unfortunately for Addison, he’s stuck in the woods and the local police are hot on his trail.
Deadfall is brutal and it’s evident right from the start. The film opens with a sweet piano tune and thoughtful look back on their childhood that’s immediately contradicted by a vicious car crash followed by an even more malicious decision on Addison’s part. Within mere minutes of the opening credits, we know exactly what’s at stake for Addison and Liza as well as who they are and the status of their relationship. Addison’s insistence that the two split up isn’t entirely justifiable, but by that point, you’re already caught up in the intensity of the situation.
From there we get into Jay’s predicament. He’s a former champion boxer who got caught up in a betting scandal that landed him in jail. But today, he’s getting out and has no choice but to head home to his parents (Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson). Hunnam makes for an endearing but volatile player who earns even more sympathy thanks to Spacek’s notably honest affection for her boy. Hunnam and Wilde share some chemistry as well, but that relationship suffers from script trouble. It’s simply not believable that the two would fall for one another after such a short period of time.
While Jay and Liza are getting all comfy cozy in their motel, Addison is in the midst of some of Deadfall’s most exciting material including a quick and dirty fist fight and a more drawn out standoff with a man terrorizing his wife in their remote cabin in the woods. Addison’s a walking contradiction all the way through and that’s what makes him such a curious character. He’s got no trouble ending someone’s life, but then he’ll exhibit a notable ray of compassion and bravery. The combination makes him tough to track and, in turn, makes Deadfall’s grand finale terrifyingly unpredictable.
Also in the mix is Kate Mara as a young deputy, Hanna. Turns out, Liza and Addison’s car crashed in her territory, so her office is responsible for tracking them down. She’s eager to get in on the action, but as the only female officer in her unit, she’s banished to desk duty by her police chief father, Becker (Treat Williams). While Hanna makes for a charming up and comer, Williams’ performance is so over the top, Becker is deplorable through and through almost to the extent that his behavior is cartoonish and ridiculous. Regardless of the issues in particular storylines, when the group comes together, there’s more than enough character development and people to care about to make the finale as explosive as they come.
On the technical side, director Stefan Ruzowitzky’s work is spot on. He’s quite skilled in action as well as calmer, conversational moments. There are quite a few unforgettably stunning shots, most notably seeing money float through the car as it flips off the road and an overhead shot of Addison walking across a completely white frame amongst many others. Then there’s the snow and it isn’t just falling in the movie; you can feel it.
When Jay first finds Liza in the freezing cold, he’s blazing down the snowy road and in a matter of seconds, Ruzowitzky whips through a sequence of shots, all showing off different angles, escalating the weather conditions and, thanks to the speed of the edits, upping the intensity tenfold until the car comes to a screeching halt, revealing an absolutely freezing Liza. It’s sequences like these that make Deadfall such a captivating experience. There’s more than enough violence and bloodshed, but you’ve also got a number of more intimate moments, letting you get close to the characters and then have it feel as though they can be ripped away in an instant.
Bits and pieces of the plot could use some tightening up and Williams could have been cut entirely, but overall, Deadfall is an enthralling ride with thrilling and emotional payoffs.