Genre(s): Drama, Crime, Suspense/Thriller
Magnolia | R – 95 min. – $29.98 | February 5, 2013
Directed by: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Writer(s): Zach Dean (written by)
Cast: Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam, Kate Mara, Treat Williams, Kris Kristofferson, Sissy Spacek
Theatrical Release Date: December 7, 2012 (limited)
Features: Featurettes, Theatrical Trailer, BD-Live
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 34.8 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.75/5
The crime-drama Deadfall opens in a town car with Addison (ERIC BANA), younger sister Liza (OLIVIA WILDE) in the back counting money and another man driving. Traveling along, we learn they just pulled off a lucrative heist but before they can celebrate, the car strikes a deer in the road sending the vehicle tumbling end over end. The driver doesn’t make it, hence why I didn’t bother providing his name, but Addison and Liza escape relatively unscathed. As a state trooper comes along to help, Addison pulls a gun and kills the trooper dead in his tracks. Pop on the screen the title.
The point I’m making outlining the opening sequence is Deadfall is built on efficiency. Any other story probably would’ve begun with the heist itself and then the getaway but instead we are propelled right into the story with no unnecessary scenes that do nothing to further the plotline. It’s something that runs throughout the movie along with a common theme of family…
Following the title, we are then introduced to ex-boxer Jay (CHARLIE HUNNAM) being released after serving a stint in prison. He once was great having placed silver at the Beijing Olympics but now is trying to find his footing first by visiting a former coach who should’ve also served time for some kind of corruption deal (didn’t get the whole gist, but it doesn’t matter) but instead of getting his fair cut of the money, he gets a minor beating before gaining the upperhand and knocks the other guy out. Knowing what this means being on parole, Jay makes his escape heading home to parents home for Thanksgiving with understanding mother June (SISSY SPACEK) and disappointed father, a former cop, Chet (KRIS KRISTOFFERSON).
Meanwhile, Addison and Liza have split up as the law doesn’t know Liza had any part in the robbery and subsequent murder. They are to later meet up again communicating via cell phone messages. And what should happen as Jay travels to his parent’s home? Yep, he comes across Liza pretending to freeze to death and hoping to hitch a ride further. Liza uses her feminine wiles and charm seducing Jay but soon enough there are sparks which only grow as they get stranded at a local bar/motel.
At the same time, Addison toughs through the snow covered, blizzard stormy wilderness first encountering a Native American chief who puts up a righteous fight and then an abusive husband and step-father staying a hunting lodge. This leads to some nice character development as Addison helps the abused and sick wife, her newborn son and observant daughter. It is symbolism run amuck given Addison and Liza’s childhood in which Addison protected his sister at all costs.
There’s also another side story, again involving family, with the small town deputy Hanna (KATE MARA) and her a-hole/d-bag father/sheriff Becker (TREAT WILLIAMS) and it doesn’t take a masters in psychology to know his anger towards his daughter is meant for the wife who skipped town. But like any good daughter, she’s torn between taking care of her dad and an opportunity which would allow her to leave town for a job with the FBI. This is the hardest part of the film to get through. While yes there is a male-dominating culture within law enforcement and only enhanced in a small town, it’s a bit much to swallow how callous the father treats his daughter.
Despite some of the soap opera-esque storylines and a finale one could foresee from the get-go, Deadfall is still an enticing little drama which features some great performances especially from Eric Bana and to a lesser extent Charlie Hunnam. Bana plays a good sociopath with the right balance of danger and charm, not quite knowing what he’s going to do next. For her part, and in spite of a loose accent, Olivia Wilde also delivers a nice performance as a damaged little girl stuck in a young woman’s body. The other cast members are nicely cast including veterans like Kris Kristofferson and Sissy Spacek to the rising talent of Kate Mara whose appearing in more and more features over the past couple of years.
If there was one major downside with the movie it’s that while I do appreciate that writer Zach Dean (making his debut) didn’t resort to doing flashbacks and kept the story itself lean, there was a bit too much introspection and self-awareness going on to which the characters often tell their shortcomings, this is especially apparent in one scene between Jay and Liza as she recounts her traumatic childhood revealing she is indeed damaged goods. I think scenes like that and others could’ve been handled a bit better, though this is a minor quibble in an otherwise tight story.
Deadfall was helmed by Austrian-born director Stefan Ruzowitzky whose previous works included the German horror-thriller, Anatomy and its sequel, Anatomy 2. Here he keeps the film going at a brisk but effective pace taking the viewer’s to that inevitable finale where the obvious secret will be revealed (that Liza, now in love, has brought her killer brother into the family’s lives) and an ending which, again, could be seen a few miles away, albeit it’s still effective.
In the end, Deadfall is not a profound movie, just an efficient thriller that will fill 90-minutes with modest satisfaction. The performances are mostly well done, save for Treat Williams, although not sure if anyone could’ve done better with that loathsome character, and the story as predictable as it may have been, will manage to keep your attention until the end.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.25/5
Snow & Western (2:42; HD) and Family (2:48; HD) serve as short promos for the film with interviews with the cast chatting about working in such a cold environment.
Production Interviews (9:44; HD) – This is a collection of interviews with Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde and Director Stefan Ruzowitzy discussing characters and the story.
Extended Interview with Stefan Ruzowitzky (10:34; HD) – Not sure why this wasn’t just included with the production interviews, but if you want to know more about how the film was made, then I suppose this is worth watching.
Behind the Scenes Footage (8:09; HD) is more or less some fly-on-the-wall material seeing how some scenes were shot and just how challenging the conditions were. I actually find these kinds of featurettes more interesting than the cut-and-paste stuff with the interviews.
AXS TV: A Look at Deadfall (4:46; HD) is another promotional featurette with footage from the movie and red carpet interviews along with more sound bites, some we’ve seen before.
The theatrical trailer (2:12; HD) and a BD-Live portal are also included.
Previews – A Royal Affair, Compliance, Sushi Girl, John Dies at the End
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Magnolia Home Entertainment releases Deadfall onto Blu-ray with a finely detailed and all around impressive 1080p high-definition transfer presented in its original 2.35 theatrical aspect ratio. The picture itself is has nice detail levels throughout, though with great clarity with close-up shots. Given a fair amount of the movie takes place in snow or within blizzard conditions, the colors are limited but as the action goes inside, you do get a nice “pop”. The black levels are also nice and stark showing no signs of artifacting, pixilation other such flaws. There is some natural film grain or noise but it’s kept to a minimum and isn’t a distraction.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track shows a wide range from the car crash/flip sequence to open the film to quieter moments throughout the rest of the movie. The surrounds get a fair amount of use during the more action-oriented scenes while the center channel is mostly used for dialogue scenes. I wouldn’t quite call this an incredible lossless track but it’s more than effectual for the genre.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, Deadfall is a simplistic and predictable drama-thriller but thanks to a suspenseful performance from Eric Bana makes for an engaging flick which is well worth at least one viewing. The supporting cast, including Olivia Wilde and Charlie Hunnam, are mostly impressive even if Wilde’s accent is a bit wonky at times. The Blu-ray offers up excellent audio/video transfers but the features are pretty thin in terms of substance.