Combustible Celluloid
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With: Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam, Kate Mara, Sissy Spacek, Kris Kristofferson, Treat Williams
Written by: Zach Dean
Directed by: Stefan Ruzowitzky
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language and sexuality
Running Time: 95
Date: 12/07/2012

Deadfall (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Snow Bind

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky won an Oscar for an overrated WWII movie, The Counterfeiters, and was responsible for another, very bad one, All the Queen's Men, so it's a surprise that he has turned in such a good, strong, compact pulp thriller like Deadfall. His filmmaking is much clearer and more confident in this terrain, using the snow and cold for maximum effect, both in separating characters and bringing them closer together.

Brother and sister team Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) are on the run from a successful casino heist, driving through a snowstorm. When their car crashes, and Addison murders a highway patrolman, they are forced to make a run for it through the freezing woods. Liza meets an ex-boxer, Jay (Charlie Hunnam), who has just served a prison sentence for killing a man in the ring, and tries to get herself invited to his parents' home for Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, Addison gets into further trouble, which results in further violence. With a scrappy young cop (Kate Mara) on their trail, what deadly fate awaits when this motley crew finally assembles at dinner at the home of Jay's parents (Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson)?

The ensemble cast is well balanced, and the complex, nuanced relationships between families build many fascinating layers. In fact, certain plot threads -- such as Jay's accidental murder victim -- are all but dropped in favor of further character development, which is actually refreshing. The extreme brutality of the Addison character makes the mix a bit too top heavy at times, but his early moments with Liza also go a long way in establishing his place. It's this excellent character balance that makes Deadfall so compelling.

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