Deadfall is a curiously nondescript title considering how much plot is packed into its 95 minutes. Though it slipped into a handful of theaters in December, 2012, it wasn’t seen by many people despite an interesting cast that includes Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Kris Kristofferson, and Sissy Spacek. At its core, Deadfall presents a trio of plot threads united by characters with severe daddy issues. While none of these threads feels as fully developed as they could be, strong acting and thoughtful writing make it worth a look.
When we first meet Addison (Bana) and Liza (Wilde), a pair of creepily close siblings, they’ve just pulled off a casino robbery. A bad accident in a heavy snowstorm leaves their driver dead. Without transportation, the pair splits up—not an easy break for either. Liza is Addison’s “little girl.” He put an end to their father’s abuse when they were kids, expanding his role beyond that of big brother to encompass both father and romantic partner. The latter may only be in his mind. As the drop-dead gorgeous Liza changes her clothes, she catches embarrassed Addison staring. “It’s alright to look,” she purrs. There’s definitely something unhealthy and unnatural being contemplated, at the very least.
Meanwhile, Jay (Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam) has just been released from prison due to good behavior. He’s a former boxer who apparently served time for throwing a fight. He used to be managed by his father (Kristofferson) but they had a falling out. Now his dad is indifferent about his son’s early prison release. After talking to his mom (Spacek) about coming over for Thanksgiving dinner the next day, Jay pays a visit to a fight promoter he believes owes him money. They wind up fighting, with Jay injuring the guy seriously enough to leave him unsure whether the guy’s alive or dead. Now Jay’s on the lam only hours after his prison release. He saves Liza from freezing as she’s walking away from the scene of her earlier accident.
Then there’s Deputy Hannah (Kate Mara), constantly belittled and marginalized by her father, Sheriff Becker (Treat Williams). Hannah is good at her job and just received notice of her acceptance into an FBI training program. She’s scared to leave her widower father, even though he treats her like she’s an incompetent little girl. Now the department is on Addison and Liza’s trail, completely underestimating how unhinged Addison truly is.
Any of the above storylines could have been the focal point of Deadfall, but apparently screenwriter Zach Dean couldn’t decide whose story was being told. Eventually, the three subplots come together but there’s just not enough time to fully explore these characters. The cast is game, going a long way toward filling the blanks with lived-in performances. Bana is the obvious standout, playing Addison as something more than a typical movie psycho. In fact, everyone does fine work, even though most of the supporting cast has relatively limited screen time. I especially wanted to know more about Jay and his father. And the romance between Jay and Liza is too convenient to be believable. To be fair, Olivia Wilde makes it incredibly easy to understand why Jay thinks he’s in love, even though he barely knows Liza.
Deadfall offers a consistently satisfactory visual experience on Blu-ray. With Shane Hurlbut serving as cinematographer, it was shot on 35mm film. As such it has a nicely film-like appearance, though grain is fairly minimal. The image is generally sharp. Overall this is a completely acceptable transfer without being particularly remarkable. The same can be said for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, which places firm emphasis on intelligible dialogue but doesn’t engage the surround channels all that much. Gunshots and other occasionally explosive sound effects are appropriately booming. Solid presentation all around.
A handful of supplemental features are included but not much of it is really worth watching. The production featurettes and interviews are mostly of a strictly promotional nature. An extended interview with director Stefan Ruzowitzky is slightly deeper but it only runs about ten minutes. “Behind the Scenes Footage” is exactly what it says, with no film clips or promo material. As such it’s marginally more interesting.
Deadfall has a lot to offer, even if many of its most intriguing ideas are never fully developed. Eric Bana’s performance alone is worth checking out. There’s too much plot for 95 minutes to support, but ultimately there’s enough going on to keep it interesting.