Deadfall (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Deadfall (2012)

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Definitely not the BodyguardAndrew DISLIKE BannerNow that's more like it.  After yesterday's experiment with an emotional void I watched the credits of Deadfall with confusion and some dissatisfaction.  This is the sort of movie I would gladly endure again just to get someone else to watch them make sense of this elaborate mess.

Philosophical musings on what it means to like anything aside, Deadfall is quite bad.  It is directed with great photographic skill by Stefan Ruzowitzky, who won the Best Foreign Language Oscar for 2007's The Counterfeiters, and he creates a chilly landscape that promises death which, when called upon, Ruzowitzky gleefully obliges.  Were he in charge of the whole film I believe I would be giving a polarized rating because in addition to his Oscar-winning past he trafficked in stylized horror films for a long time.

However, he did not write the screenplay for Deadfall, and aside from the atrocious accents many of the performers adopt the writing is the one element that completely fails this film.  This is screenwriter Zach Dean's first feature-film and based on the way the various criminal elements come into play he must be a proponent of Intelligent Design, because the story in no way evolved in the imagination.  The events that drive all the characters together are so contrived and intricately assembled that nothing feels natural and the hellish natural landscape is subverted by this too-perfect artificial plot.  Yes - all fiction is artificial in a sense, but at least I forget I'm being lied to.

Deadfall at least starts off running with style straight out of the gate.

Deadfall at least starts off running with style straight out of the gate.

Even before the twists and turns come into play the screenplay would be much better served as a test for reading comprehension.  Look at the pieces here:

  1. Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde), a brother / sister con-artist team who make disturbingly sexual glances at each other, get into a car accident after the latest grift and decide to part ways in the frozen tundra.  Liza is clad in a thin coat, a slinky dress, and some jeans so it makes no sense for her protective brother to leave her to wander around alone but then there would be no way for Liza to meet
  2. Jay (Charlie Hunnam).  He's a soulful boxer released from jail who decides to go confront his old coach, who Jay thinks set him up.  Jay has barely been out of prison for a few minutes before doing this and after a scuffle Jay activates his one-punch kill technique and has to go on the run.  Liza is freezing on the side of the road and Jay happens upon then rescues her so that they can have several soulful conversations where he tells Liza he's going to see his parents (Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson) who happen to be friends with
  3. Hanna (Kate Mara).  She's a cop in the vein of Clarice Starling, trying to make her mark in a man's world which is firmly established by making sure every scene with a male cop has them holding their penises in some fashion.  Hanna's dad (Treat Williams) is also her commanding officer and has apparently made a habit out of demeaning her sex at the scene of multiple homicides.  The scene, by the way, is created by
  4. Addison.  He's been stumbling through the woods with a cold tolerance his sister clearly does not possess and happens upon a Indian chief with a snowmobile who Addison kills and finds the cabin where he creates the death scene Hanna eventually investigates and

on and on and on.  This is all barely within the first 20-ish minutes of the movie and I haven't even gotten into the developments that culminate in a very unusual Thanksgiving feast.  Every conversation that the characters have during each of these heavily plotted overlaying events is punctuated by bizarre leaps of faith.  Jay and Liza, for example, end up in the most romantic dive bar I've seen and leap straight into bed after Liza intuitively senses his tenderness because of his serious demeanor.  The seriousness which, mind you, comes after he superpunched a possible mafia boss and she picks up after knowing him only an hour or two and followed up by not one, but two sex scenes in the middle of all this killing.

There's a man happy to stop with the killin' and get some turkey.

There's a man happy to stop with the killin' and get some turkey.

This material is begging to be played for camp.  No one should have read Dean's screenplay and taken this overly-plotted nonsense seriously but apparently everyone except for the director did.  Bana, who is a splendid actor, and Wilde both adopt horrible Southern-ish accents that wouldn't be out of place in Disney's earlier more racially inappropriate times.  Kristofferson and Spacek both play overly serious caricatures of their respective country pasts, Mara and Williams are equally flat, and Hunnam spends the whole film looking so sad they might as well have Photoshopped the head of a basset hound puppy onto his body.

Ruzowitzki's direction is the saint amongst these dramatic sinners.  The car accident that opens the film is a superb twist on some of David Fincher's great crashes and culminates in a post-robbery visual so potent and obvious I can't believe I haven't seen it before.  Also great are the scenes of intense violence that are presented as a side joke to the audience as a brutal counterpart to the melodrama of the relationships.  I've not watched any of his films previously, but based on the glee with which he kills off some of the more annoying supporting members I'll have to start with his horror films first.

Deadfall is a mess, but I was at least invested through incomprehension at the forced plot strands coming together.  I didn't like Deadfall, but sometimes it's much better to be dissatisfied than numb.  I'll gladly take the confused look of a loved one as I explain the plot over any of Miley Cyrus' bored expressions.

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Deadfall - TailDeadfall (2012)

Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky.
Screenplay written by Zach Dean.
Starring an ensemble cast with Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, and many others.

Posted by Andrew

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