In Deadfall, all the male characters are, more or less, fucking assholes. This crime thriller from director Stefan Ruzowitsky (2007’s The Counterfeiters, that year’s best foreign language film at the Oscars) offers a soup-to-nuts smorgasbord of jackassery, from misogyny to implied incest to violent, uncontrollable rage. There doesn’t seem to be a point to this running theme; in fact, it mostly indicates laziness or inexperience on behalf of screenwriter Zach Dean, unsurprisingly a first-timer. Fingers crossed that the write-what-you-know adage doesn’t apply.
Despite all that, Deadfall is passable entertainment, a thugs-on-the-run story that may often be unpalatable but is engaging enough throughout its 95 minutes. Eric Bana plays Addison, a seasoned criminal who at the beginning of the film has just pulled off a casino heist with his younger sister, Liza (Olivia Wilde). Liza’s busy counting their spoils in the backseat of the getaway car when snowy roads in a remote area near Detroit cause the vehicle to crash, killing the siblings’ driver and leaving them bloodied but well enough to know they have to make a run for it. They split—but not before, ick, Addison prompts his sis to say, “I’m your little girl”—forging through the forest in an attempt to reunite in Canada.
Meanwhile, a former Olympic boxer named Jay (Charlie Hunnam) is getting out of jail. He goes to his former manager for money he believes he’s owed and ends up fighting the guy, perhaps injuring him fatally. Jay also reluctantly calls his dad (Kris Kristofferson), who’s taciturn, but also talks to his mom (Sissy Spacek), who’s thrilled to death that Jay will be able to visit for Thanksgiving. Neither of them know it yet, but he’ll be bringing a guest: Liza, whom Jay rescues from blizzard conditions when he sees her shivering and nearly in shock (or is she?) in the middle of a road. Liza works her feminine wiles (“Name me,” she purrs to him when he asks who she is), asks him for a ride to the border, and they instantly fall in lust.
The Detroit police, including Hannah (Kate Mara), the daughter of the sexist sheriff, are looking for Addison, who traipses through the woods killing people whenever necessary. (After he tells a child whose drunken stepfather he shoots that maybe he’s an angel, he shoots another, and she says, “You’re no angel at all!”) Bana may have been the Hulk, but he’s not quite believable as a badass; even though he affects some serious crazy eyes and a slight, indeterminable accent, his face is too innocent and friendly to for you to completely buy him as a serial murderer. Wilde is more realistic as a still-little-girl wounded (their father, of course, was also a “monster”), her Liza readily clinging to any man who throws a little affection or protection her way, despite what initially seems like her ability and willingness to manipulate.
Deadfall wraps up a bit too neatly, in a what-a-small-world kind of way. Still, the climactic chapters are deliciously tense, taking place at a Thanksgiving table that’s warmly lit by candlelight, a stark contrast to the cold-bloodedness waiting to destroy the holiday cheer. With its largely unlikable characters, though, the film leaves you will the same feeling as Liza’s earlier proclamation to her big brother: ick.