There’s a lot that can be said for a well-planned heist — as well as for a botched, promising film noir. In the case of Deadfall, though, let’s just say that watching this violent potboiler is like observing a thief knock off a convenience store, then seeing him lock his keys in the car.
Certainly, a cadre of respectable, very watchable actors thought this overly plotted thriller could deliver the goods. Yet Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky, working from a first script by Zach Dean, lets some truly dangerous moments get buried under dangling plot threads and half-thawed suspense.
Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde are Addison and Liza, a brother-and-sister grifter duo revelling in a successful casino robbery when their scheme goes off the rails. Addison, in a split-second decision, shoots a police officer. He and Liza then split up, planning to meet up again later.
In the meantime, Liza meets and seduces an ex-con named Jay (Charlie Hunnam), while Addison befriends a motherless waif. He and Liza reconnect at the house of Jay’s parents (Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson), who aren’t expecting their Thanksgiving to be so explosive.
The constant snowfall and Southern-accented literary quirks (“We cain’t dally,” an addled Addison says trying to hurry his sister up) put the film in the outskirts of Coen brothers territory, while the never-subtle incestuous undertones between the siblings seems rote.
Wilde, though, remains an actress forever set at steadily percolating, her fiery presence untarnished by titles like Cowboys & Aliens, Tron: Legacy, The Change-Up and People Like Us. Her femme-fatale smolder is turned on high here to keep “Deadfall” cooking.
Bana, on the other hand, is misdirected to seem rougher and more unpredictable. Spacek and Kristofferson know how to make even a dull Desperate Hours conceit seem grounded. Hunnam, however, disappears into the background, despite his sexy scenes with Wilde, as Kata Mara and Treat Williams appear in blink-and-youMov-miss-them roles.
If Deadfall had more life, it might have been about more than just its wannabe edge. Ruzowitzky, whose 2007 film The Counterfeiters won a Best Foreign Film Oscar, understands the movie’s simple plan. But it nonetheless puts us into a big sleep.