×

Deadfall

A highly satisfying Western-cum-noir in the old tradition, "Deadfall" is alive in ways that are all too rare among American movies.

With:
Addison - Eric Bana
Jay Mills - Charlie Hunnam
Liza - Olivia Wilde
Chet Mills - Kris Kristofferson
June Mills - Sissy Spacek
Hanna - Kate Mara
Sheriff Becker - Treat Williams

A highly satisfying Western-cum-noir in the old tradition, “Deadfall” is alive in ways that are all too rare among American movies. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky seems to be channeling a smidgen of noir giant Raoul Walsh (“High Sierra”) while following the desperate attempts of a brother-sister pair (Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde) to reach Canada with casino-pilfered banknote booty in tow. Vivid action in snow-covered climes, sharp widescreen cinematography and a stellar cast — including Sissy Spacek, Treat Williams, Kris Kristofferson and Kate Mara as a “Fargo”-esque female sheriff — combine to make the pic a vibrant commercial and critical property for Magnolia.

Together with first-time screenwriter Zach Dean, Ruzowitzky (an Oscar winner for his Austrian pic “The Counterfeiters”) focuses on strained family relations, further distinguishing a film that works plenty well in purely action-oriented terms. Crashing their car in a northern Michigan snowdrift while trying to elude police pursuit, borderline-incestuous sibling thieves Addison (Bana) and Liza (Wilde) get away by shooting a state trooper to death — although they still have each other to deal with.

Reluctantly agreeing with her brother’s suggestion that they separate on the trek north (on foot, and in blizzard conditions, yet), Liza meets and soon falls into a motel bed with young ex-con and former Olympic boxer Jay (Charlie Hunnam), who’s en route to Thanksgiving dinner at the home of his sixtysomething parents, June and Chet (Spacek and Kristofferson), neither one pleased with the kid’s recent choices. Meantime, alerted to the cop’s murder, a young distaff sheriff (Mara) pursues the case, even though her sexist commanding officer (Williams) is patently disapproving of professional women, never mind that he’s also her father.

Ruzowitzky proves equally adept with conversational scenes and action sequences, the early car crash and an intense snowmobile chase being only two of several cinematic eye-poppers. The pulpy but substantive pic benefits greatly from exceptional acting across the board, with relative newcomer Hunnam, muscular and handsome, holding his own among more experienced thesps. The film’s lack of irony is another unique feature, giving it more in common with ’40s and ’50s Hollywood genre pics than with more recent American fare; the climax at the comfy home of June and Chet recalls William Wyler’s “Desperate Hours.”

Acting-wise, Bana expertly essays a jokester villain who’s made more complicated by psychological and physical vulnerabilities. Mara is terrifically likable in the role of an intrepid young cop, and Spacek’s scenes with Kristofferson convey a tender familiarity.

On balance, tech credits are superb, with Shane Hurlbut’s celluloid work — emitting a bluish-black, slightly spectral glow in night scenes — a particular standout.

Popular on Variety

Deadfall

Production: A Magnolia Pictures release of a Studiocanal presentation of a 2929 production. Produced by Gary Levinsohn, Shelly Clippard, Ben Cosgrove, Todd Wagner. Executive producers, Mark Cuban, Josette Perrotta, Adam Kolbrenner, Winfried Hammacher, Olivier Courson, Ron Halpern. Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky. Screenplay, Zach Dean.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Shane Hurlbut; editors, Arthur Tarnowski, Dan Zimmerman; music, Marco Beltrami; production designer, Paul Denham Austerberry; costume designer, Odette Gadoury; sound (Dolby Digital), A. Josh Reinhardt; casting, Randi Hiller. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Spotlight), April 22, 2012. Running time: 95 MIN.

Cast: Addison - Eric Bana
Jay Mills - Charlie Hunnam
Liza - Olivia Wilde
Chet Mills - Kris Kristofferson
June Mills - Sissy Spacek
Hanna - Kate Mara
Sheriff Becker - Treat Williams

More Scene

  • Cara Delevingne'Carnival Row' TV show premiere,

    Cara Delevingne Talks Immigration, Taylor Swift's Battle With Scooter Braun

    Cara Delevingne, whose faerie character in “Carnival Row” finds herself washed ashore as a refugee in a foreign land, said she was immediately drawn by the show’s fantastical take on issues of immigration and assimilation. “It’s a cause that I have been involved in for a long time,” Delevingne told Variety at the premiere of [...]

  • John Travolta, Fred Durst. John Travolta,

    John Travolta Recalls Fans Breaking Into His House: 'I Was Scared the First Time'

    Nobody can accuse John Travolta of not being gracious to his fans, whether it’s an autograph, a selfie or, you know, a home invasion or two. “I’ve only had two people that actually invaded my house,” Travolta told Variety at the premiere of “The Fanatic” at the Egyptian Theater on Thursday night. “They were just [...]

  • Sublime Primetime

    How Emmy-Nominated Writers’ Rooms Keep Politics in Mind

    In a world filled with elections, social movements and national tragedies, how open should the doors of a writers’ room actually be? For some of this year’s Emmy-nominated shows, those doors are wide open. Before the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards air on Sept. 22, the Writers Guild of America West and Writers Guild Foundation, [...]

  • 50 Cent Power S6 Premiere

    50 Cent, Snoop Dogg & Trey Songz 'Power' Up New York City for Massive Season 6 Premiere

    “Power” is entering its final season, but you would never know if you walked by Madison Square Garden in Manhattan on Tuesday night. Starz pulled out all the stops for its ratings powerhouse “Power,” throwing a massive premiere event, complete with a full-length concert at Madison Square Garden from Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and a [...]

  • Diane Warren'Late Night' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Songs of Hope to Honor Diane Warren, Marc Shaiman, Boi-1da, More at 15th Annual Event

    Cancer research and treatment center City of Hope today announced the initial lineup of presenters and honorees who will celebrate the song and songwriter at its 15th annual Songs of Hope event. Among the music and entertainment industry VIPs in attendance will be veteran executive and producer Clive Davis, producer Boi-1da (Drake, Kendrick Lamar), award-winning [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content