DVD of the Week: Deadfall

Deadfall is a solid thriller that flew under the radar during the holidays.  Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde are brother and sister running for the Canadian border after a casino heist.  They wreck their car and split up.  The brother sets off overland, leaving a trail of murderous carnage.   The local cops are on the alert, including the sheriff’s deputy daughter (Kate Mara).   Meanwhile,  a bad luck boxer (Charlie Hannum of Sons of Anarchy) is released from prison, impulsively commits another crime and is headed for his parents’ (Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson) remote northern cabin.  The sister hitches a ride with the boxer.  Everybody converges at the boxer’s parents’ place for an extremely stressful Thanksgiving dinner.

An essential element of this thriller is that all of the families are dysfunctional.   The siblings have survived a hellish upbringing, from which the older brother has rescued his little sister; unfortunately, he has emerged as a psychopath himself and has infantilized the sister.  The relationship between the boxer and his father has been poisoned by a long-festering dispute.  The sheriff resents and belittles his bright and highly professional daughter while doting on her idiot brothers.

The core of the movie is the evolving relationship between Wilde’s sister and Hunnam’s boxer.  Neither knows that the other is on the lam.  She cynically seduces him because he is useful.  But then she starts to fall for him, and, by Thanksgiving dinner, her loyalties are uncertain.

Sissy Spacek is brilliant as the boxer’s mom, who must steer over the wreckage of the relationship between her son and her husband, and who must then serve a Thanksgiving dinner to a volatile killer who is holding a shotgun on the other guests.  She is a great actor, and she’s as good here as in any of her signature performances.

The cinematography, characters, acting and the directorial choices by Stefan Ruzowitzky are excellent.  What keeps Deadfall from being one of the year’s best is some trite, TV movie level dialogue along the way.  Still, it’s a good watch.

Note: This is NOT the 1993 Deadfall, with Nicholas Cage even more over-the-top than usual.

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