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Tribeca 2012: Deadfall

The 2012 Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 18th to April 29th. Jeff Hart and Jeremiah White are there and will be seeing a shitload of movies.

Sorry, there's no sweaty sex scenes here.

When brother/sister thieves Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) find themselves on the run with a bag of cash in the snowy Michigan wilderness, they split up with plans to meet at the Canadian border. Liza catches a ride with former boxer and current parolee Jay (Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam) who is laying low from the cops himself, and on the way to his parents’ house which is, you guessed it, near the border. Addison, meanwhile, embarks on a strange journey that brings him into contact with a variety of characters, many of whom end up dead.

That’s a premise I can totally get behind. Three criminals with different personalities and skill sets race for the border with a bunch of money between them. Mix in Johnny Law chasing them down and Jay’s parents preparing a Thanksgiving feast for his homecoming, and just let it rip. See who makes it to the border, who ends up with the money, who gets arrested, and who winds up dead. It should be fun… but it’s not.

Zach Dean’s script sets the characters off on very different paths and keeps them separated for much of the runtime. The tone, content and quality varies so much that Deadfall occasionally feels like a few different movies tied together. Bana’s scenes are the best, partly because they feature all of the action and partly because they star Eric Bana. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky delivers solid action sequences. They’re over-the-top and frequently illogical, but they’re also bloody and fun (especially a snowmobile chase that wouldn’t be out of place in a James Bond movie). The half-Southern/half-Australian accent Bana employs accurately represents his all-over-the-place character. It becomes obvious pretty early on that Addison is basically the villain here, but he can be a master criminal, an unhinged sociopath or an avenging angel depending on the scene. Regardless of the mode, Bana always seems to be having fun and I enjoyed riding shotgun on his violent odyssey.

The Jay and Liza storyline has none of that going for it. It’s essentially a straightforward romance. The premise of the movie (criminals, bag of stolen cash, etc.) is practically irrelevant with these two as they wait snowstorms out in bars, get to know each other, and make snowmen (you think I’m kidding?), all while Hunnam and Wilde exchange cliché-ridden expository dialogue in spotty performances. It’s a nightmare, except for when Hunnam walks out of a motel in underwear and boots and yells at some trucker that he’ll put him in a fucking coma. That was great.

The clichés venture into unintentional hilarity when we meet the law enforcement around these parts, represented by Kate Mara and Treat Williams. She’s the young cop trying to leave this town behind her and get into the FBI, and he’s her father and sheriff who treats her like crap because she doesn’t have a penis. Treat Williams metaphorically twirls his mustache like he’s the main villain, but I see where he’s coming from because Mara is a lousy cop. She and her fellow officers are entirely reliant on miraculous phone calls and conveniently concerned citizens to keep them in the game. It’s like the filmmakers kept forgetting about them and just wrote them back into the action as lazily as possible.

The cast is rounded out by Kris Kristofferson and Sissy Spacek as Jay’s parents. I’m only mentioning them because of the prominence of the actors, not the characters. They basically wait around for hell, in the form of Eric Bana, to show up on their doorstep.

Deadfall starts off promising but is ultimately dragged down by lackluster plotting, painful dialogue and an overabundance of weak performances. There are a few bright spots in the form of well-handled action, but the only consistently good aspect is Eric Bana and his going-for-broke scenery chewing. That’s not nearly enough for me recommend it.

VERDICT: Skip it.

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