The heist went well. But the getaway goes sideways, as getaways often do. That puts brother and sister casino robbers Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) on foot, split up and dashing through the snow toward the Canadian border with Michigan.
We know, early on in Deadfall, where they must rendezvous. We learn, in the opening moments, that Addison is trigger happy. And when he tells his sister as they separate, "Use your wits," we know what he means.
She's Olivia Wilde. She's going to bat her eyes at some fellow and get a ride. And if it takes long enough for the siblings to reach their rendezvous, we know we're going to see Olivia Wilde in her birthday suit -- weather be damned.
It's a thriller built on melodramatic conventions, as Addison stumbles into the middle of a domestic dispute that he settles with a gun, and Liza hooks up with Jay (Charlie Hunnam), an Olympic boxer, fresh out of prison and on the run again. He's trying to make it home to Mom (Sissy Spacek) and disapproving Dad (Kris Kristofferson).
And the soap operatics don't end there in this Zach Dean script. An intrepid sheriff's deputy (Kate Mara) is sharp enough to earn a tryout with the FBI But her sexist jerk of a sheriff (Treat Williams) and his other deputies treat her like it's 1972 and they've never seen a woman with a badge. She is the one destined to run afoul of the killer and/or his sister.
When Liza tells Jay "This is kinda like an old movie, don't you think?" we kind of know what she means. In setting, situations, characters and action, Deadfall has the earmarks of a dozen earlier thrillers. First-time screenwriter Dean borrows heavily from the ancient Bogart back catalogue -- Petrified Forest to High Sierra.
And Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky (The Counterfeiters) gives it the right tone and look -- grey, icy roads and icier trails, snowmobiles covering kilometres of snowy ground, the odd splash of red when the violence comes.
The performances are solid, with Mara and Wilde the standouts.
But Bana slings a drawl that is almost completely unlike any Southern accent you've ever heard. (Wilde wisely doesn't bother.)
You could almost forgive the questionable geography, predictable directions and melodramatic flourishes of this "Oh, now, come on" tale of accidents and blood-stained coincidences. But they start to pile up like a February snowdrift.
The tipping point? A chance encounter with a native American hunter might lead to a simple murder, but the hunter is prepared and ready to battle. He says he saw Addison coming at him "in a dream."
Native American mysticism? Pretty much a dead giveaway that your writer has no experience of the world he's writing about.
-- McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Starring Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Kate Mara, Charlie Hunnam, Treat Williams, Sissy Spacek, Kris Kristofferson
3 stars out of 5