Watchable only for camp value, “Deadfall” is at its best when cameo-laden anarchy reigns. As a tribute to film noir, it won’t make it to the late late show.
This feature bow from Christopher Coppola, Francis F.’s nephew, is a haphazard run at “Grifters”-type fun. It is rife with overripe writing — as in “Every time you fleece a sucker, it eats another piece of your soul”– and the Spillane-isms amuse but grow wearying, especially in the mouth of lead thesp Michael Biehn.
Blond, bland Biehn plays Joe Donan, the son of a veteran New York con man (James Coburn). When dad goes down in a sour scam, Joe headsout to Santa Monica to look up his estranged Uncle Lou (Coburn again) and runs into a new set of games involving crazed henchman Eddie (the director’s brother, Nicolas Cage) and his hot-stuff girlfriend Diane (Sarah Trigger).
Trigger probably has what it takes for comedy, but she’s as insubstantial as Biehn in the heat department. Call it “True Romance” syndrome, but the leads are forgettably blah next to the grotesques around them. Coburn and Cage aren’t exactly control freaks to begin with, and Coppola turns them utterly loose.
Unfortunately, when Cage’s character dies, so does the movie. An attempt to revive his sleazoid factor, via Charlie Sheen as a too-smooth pool shark, does more for Sheen’s comic rep than for the pic’s flagging momentum. By the end, the tale is so laden with red herrings and forced repartee that even die-hard genre-freaks will have dropped their frozen smiles.
Tech credits are OK, with jazzy music a plus, although lensing and design are not quite up to those ready references to Hitchcock, Welles and, well, Coppola. Losing a few minutes of deadwood might help block the bloated pic’s free fall from limited theatrical run, but it’s likely to end its days as a video oddity, saved for at-home Nicolas Cage retrospectives.