Deadfall (Magnolia Pictures, R)

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deadfall 75Watching Deadfall is similar to listening to a five-year-old tell a story. Dean rushes through the exposition, thinking it will make the story more suspenseful and interesting.

 

deadfall 500

Arriving in theaters with what will surely be a resounding thud, followed by a quick, quiet dismissal from screens, is Deadfall, possibly the most uninspired and derivative movie to come out in the last few years. Written by first-time screenwriter Zach Dean, Deadfall is trying to be Rambo, Fargo, and Trapped in Paradise simultaneously, while never once coming close to the (comparatively) high marks set by those films’ respective screenplays.

At the center of the movie, we have three main relationships. Yes, you read that correctly. The story’s central focus is three relationships, none of which are fully developed, explored, or, thankfully, given sufficient screen time to allow the audience to fully embrace the characters. At the start, Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) are involved in a car accident in the northernmost area of Michigan while fleeing some sort of criminal activity in which they took part. All we know is it involved an Indian casino, a lot of money, and Liza dressing like a stripper, despite the two feet of snow on the ground. Addison and Liza are brother and sister, but you wouldn’t know it given the way they look at one another. But, hey, they have Southern accents, so no need for explanation or backstory.

Through some ridiculously asinine decision-making on the part of Addison, he and Liza separate. He ends up surviving in the wilderness like a mentally disturbed Vietnam vet while she is rescued by Jay (Charlie Hunnam), an ex-boxer just released from prison who doesn’t find it at all strange that she is standing in the snow wearing only a cocktail dress. Liza warms up to Jay, hoping he will be her (and Addison’s) ticket across the border to Canada. Jay forgets the very strange way he met Liza and decides the best thing to do is sleep with her.

Putting a damper on Addison’s escape plans is Hanna (Kate Mara), a local police officer who stumbles into the Addison-Liza-Jay love triangle. Always trying to prove her worth to her father, Chief of Police Becker (Treat Williams), Hanna goes above and beyond in order to earn her daddy’s love. As is obvious from nearly the first scene of the film, the three stories culminate at the home of Jay’s parents, June (Sissy Spacek) and Chet (Kris Kristofferson), during Thanksgiving dinner.

Watching Deadfall is similar to listening to a five-year-old tell a story. Dean rushes through the exposition, thinking it will make the story more suspenseful and interesting. (It doesn’t.) He is constantly bouncing back and forth between the stories so as to justify later events, as if he forgot to include a key plot point and, instead of a full revision, he just tacked something on later. Many of his characters’ backstories are completely unclear, ostensibly because Dean wanted them to be ambiguous and mysterious. In reality, it is just frustrating trying to figure out (a) why Jay went from being an Olympic boxer to being in jail, (b) whether Addison and Liza have a sexual past or not, and (c) why Hanna would continually try to win her father’s affection, given he is an unrepentant misogynist?

The film can’t even be saved by director Stefan Ruzowitzky (The Counterfeiters) or an arsenal of typically strong performers. Bana seems to be in a movie of his own, one with a much darker and more “torture porn”-y vibe to it. His drawl is almost laughable, and he never can quite decide if Addison is a truly disturbed individual or just a miserable human being. Hunnam, who is usually wonderful, also seems confused about his character and his motivations, leaving Jay to appear like either a giant man-child or a complete nitwit.

Deadfall is a truly awful film that has more confidence in itself than it deserves. A better use of your time would be to stand in a snow bank wearing only a negligee while pressing your tongue to a lamppost. | Matthew Newlin

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