Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tribeca ’12: Deadfall

A prodigal son plows through a blizzard to make it home for Thanksgiving dinner.  However, this will not be the stuff of a Norman Rockwell painting.  Instead, his fate will become intertwined with that of two wanted fugitives in Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Deadfall, a chilly thriller from the Academy Award winning director of The Counterfeiters, which screens during the 2012 Tribeca FilmFestival.

Having endured a traumatic childhood together, Addison and his sister Liza are now hopelessly codependent.  He also has a propensity for violence.  They just knocked over a casino, but a freak accident mars their getaway.  Splitting up (for reasons driven more by the narrative than survival considerations) an exhausted Liza is rescued from the frozen roadside by Jay, an ex-con former Olympic boxer, who through a complicated set of circumstances already suspects the law is after his dumb hide.

Liza knows the cops are looking for her and Addison, so his parents’ home near the Canadian border sounds like the perfect rendezvous.  Much to her surprise though, she quickly develops intense feelings for the dumb palooka, which she can tell are mutual.  Liza does not yet know Jay’s father is the former sheriff and his successor’s unappreciated deputy-daughter is a close friend of the family, but she will learn when Jay’s Planes, Trains, and Automobiles story turns into The Desperate Hours.

There are an awful lot of contrivances in Deadfall.  Indeed, Jay and Liza fall for each other faster than light-speed.  Still in his case, it might be rather believable, considering he just got out of prison and she is played by Olivia Wilde.  In fact, for the most part, Ruzowitzky’s energetic pacing and the conviction of his cast largely overcome the credibility gaps.

Most importantly, Addison and Liza make an excellent villain-femme fatale tandem.  Eric Bana compellingly brings out Addison’s avenging angel complex, while Wilde nicely balances Liza’s cunning and vulnerability.  Though Charlie Hunnam is not exactly a great thespian, the audience can certainly believe his ex-boxer has taken a number of blows to the head.  Not so surprisingly, Sissy Spacek adds a real touch of class to the film, playing Jay’s mother with grace and intelligence.

Despite the ragged edges, Deadfall is an easy man vs. man vs. the elements thriller to get caught up in.  Sure to become a family Thanksgiving tradition, it screens again this afternoon (4/26) as part of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.