Friday, December 21, 2012



Deadfall It's bitter cold in a whiteout snow world. Crimes are committed. Bodies are piled up. Criminals are on the run. Things happen unexpectedly but amazingly coincidental. That might sound like the setup in movies like "A Simple Plan" or "Fargo". But none of those films serve a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner. Austria director Stefan Ruzowitzky changes that in his tongue-in-cheek thriller "Deadfall" (USA 2012 | 95 min.). It sleekly assembles all these elements together into a Western that starts with a blizzard in freezing Michigan winter and ends at a Thanksgiving dinner table.

The film opens when Addison (Eric Bana) and his sister Liza (Olivia Wilde) are running away after a casino heist. Judged from the way they talk to each other, they appear to have more in their relationship than just being siblings. Shortly thereafter, something unexpected happens, of course. Wearing little clothes in the blizzard, they begin to walk on foot in their separate routes toward north. They plan to meet again once they cross the border to Canada. Why separately? Liza also asks that question. But she is not told the true reason—the plot needs to have two parallel subplots surround each one of them and converge in the end.

Nearly frozen Liza is spotted by Jay (Charlie Hunnam) in the snow storm (please don't ask more questions such as why she is so lucky). Jay is an Olympic medalist in boxing. He is just released from prison and heading to his parent's house next to the Canadian border for Thanksgiving. Jay's mom June (Sissy Spacek) is cooking and looking forward for his visit, but his dad Chet (Kris Kristofferson) still has some unresolved issues with him.

On the other route, Addison not only survives the blizzard, he wrestles his way all the way up to, well you guess it, Jay's parents' house.

That's where almost every characters in the film (if they are not dead yet) congregate. At a crowded Thanksgiving dinner table, they sort out all the psychological baggage they have, and June serves her home baked pies, while a gun is pointing at her. Think again if you complain about your Thanksgiving family dinner is tough to endure.

Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde in DEADFALL

Obviously, the film doesn't even attempt to be flawless in its plot. It simply ignores the expected reaction from the audience starting with "what in the world ...?" for many incidents. Instead, the film is like a theater production, it sets the stage and brings the characters in. Once you get over this arrangement, this film is a brilliant exercise on exploring its characters and delivers plenty amusing entertainment, and it never shies away from gore.

The film deliberately pains an ambiguous image about the sibling characters. Despite that Addison and Liza are criminals and killers, they are not maniacs or psychopath, and they are not even bad people. When Addison kills good people, he is apologetic. When he kills a bad guy, you cheer for him.

It's interesting to see how they react to each unexpected event and strangers in their path while escaping to Canada. However, they should have known better—the filmmaker's real intention is to serve the Thanksgiving dinner in the final act and to let them talk about their feelings. They will never get to Canada. Besides, it's colder up there. With the bare skin Liza likes to expose in the snow, it sounds like a bad idea.

"Deadfall," a Magnolia Pictures release, opens on Friday, December 21, 2012 at Bay Area theaters.

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