johnlink ranks DEADFALL (2012)

Boasting a pretty decent cast and promising plenty of brooding characters, DEADFALL looked to be a modern dirty noir. Flawed characters do morally questionable things, people get hurt, relationships are betrayed. Sounds like a fun night out in the snow. Could it deliver?


I watched DEADFALL (2012) on 3.6.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

The movie picks up in a car in the immediate aftermath of a casino heist. Siblings Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) are literally counting their money. Then, a car accident, a state trooper ends up dead, and they are on the run. Chasing are deputy Hanna (Kate Mara) and her Dad, the Sheriff (Treat Williams). Also introduced is newly free-from prison Jay (Charlie Hunnam) who does something unfortunate within hours of release. Back in the central town of the plot, near the Canadian border, are Jay’s parents: A former Sheriff, Chet (Kris Kristofferson) and his wife June (Sissy Spacek). It may seem like a lot to keep track of for a small movie, but they all end up together eventually. All of ’em.

The script, by Zach Dean, is the most wildly inconsistent screenplay in recent memory. It does some things very well. Liza, particularly, is well written. She has severe brother issues. There is evidence of incest there, though he also once saved her life. She needs him until she finds a surrogate in Jay. But the transition is neither smooth nor clean. Instead, Wilde gives a solid and quietly powerful performance. Likewise, Bana is scary as the film’s villain. He does enough good to try to get you on his side, but he always makes the wrong impulsive choices. Jay, also, is a good character. He has Daddy issues stemming back to the time he was an Olympic silver medal boxer before going to prison (you read that right). Spacek’s June is probably the most morally centered and strong character in the film, with much of the power of the performance going to Spacek herself rather than the writing. The character of Hanna is also strong, but only because of Mara’s performance. As scripted, she is a redundant character.

In fact, it is the character of Hanna which is the crux of the problem. She also has Daddy issues. Her Daddy is the current Sheriff (Jay’s was the previous, remember). Her Daddy openly mocks her in meetings and ridicules her openly for being a girl. The dialogue in these moments is both forced and unrealistic. Similarly, the scripting of Jay and Chet’s Daddy issues are also not clean. These actors all sell it as well as they can, but some of the dialogue doesn’t ring true.

The parallels are everywhere of course, we have three separate families with problems. At one point Addison saves a little girl named Lisa, who he incorrectly calls by his sister’s name Liza. When Jay and Liza make up identities for each other, Liza (who is clearly using her sex to hitch a ride here) calls her potential lover by her brother’s name, Addison. The themes ultimately involve making up with your family before it is too late. In the end, one succeeds, one fails, and one still has a hung jury.

The violence is fierce, even if it isn’t graphic. Any actor you haven’t heard of is subject to be offed at any moment. Some we see coming, some are a surprise. Another strength of the script is its ability to keep you on your toes.

The movie is fairly average until the third act brings everyone together. There is a good 15 to 20 minutes of this movie which is top notch. Unfortunately, as the coincidences mount, the ending cannot quite live up to that sudden build. The end is not terrible, but it is not as strong as what immediately proceeded it.

But, look, this is a pretty good crime noir flick, a genre which often gets ignored or softened up, or turned into comedy (sometimes into comedy gold, like KISS KISS BANG BANG). DEADFALL is worth giving a shot. The ambiance works, the actors don’t just mail it in, and the action is satisfying. If the script were tightened up, this could have been a very memorable film.





~ by johnlink00 on March 7, 2014.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks DEADFALL (2012)”

  1. I liked this thing – more than you – I think 6 is totally fair ~

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: