3/5 stars

The opening scene of Deadfall is utterly confusing to me. The shot is composed of a snowy landscape, yet when I hear the voice-over of Eric Bana’s character, I immediately wonder, “Is there that much snow in Australia?” Then, the slight Australian accent shifts to a Southern drawl, and I’m reassured that Addison (Bana) is in fact an Alabaman who, along with his femme fatale sister, Liza (Olivia Wilde), is on the run in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula after pulling off a casino heist. Sure enough, Bana hails from Down Under, and while the actor apparently has difficulty covering up his native accent in a few scenes, for the most part he portrays Addison with the perfect balance of callousness and what seems like genuine compassion for such a nut job of a character.

When the siblings encounter a major snag in their plans after their getaway car is totalled in a brutal accident, Addison’s domineering nature surfaces, and he decides that they should split up and travel separately to Canada to make faster time, at which point their mutual gazes make no effort to hide their incestuous desires.

Meanwhile, former Olympic boxer Jay (Charlie Hunnam) is released from a prison in Detroit and begins to make the trip to his parents’ farmhouse just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. After speeding away from the confrontation with his ex-trainer, Jay picks up a hypothermia-afflicted Liza and the two begin a steamy relationship that confuses the woman who has been cared for and ogled by her brother for her entire dysfunctional life.

In the midst of all of the excitement, Jay’s pumpkin-pie-wielding mother (Sissy Spacek) and grudge-holding father (Kris Kristofferson) end up being forced to host Addison at their home in a riveting Thanksgiving dinner hostage situation. The suspense is amplified when Jay arrives with Liza, his new girlfriend of sorts, much to the chagrin of Addison. Add to the guest list the local deputy, Hanna (Kate Mara), as well as her chauvinistic father, Sheriff Becker (Treat Williams), and the rest is just a gory climax of tension and moving sentiment.

Though Addison’s killing spree throughout the course of the film is questionable, it allows for several exhilarating action sequences— namely an extremely fast-paced snowmobile chase showcases director Stefan Ruzowitzky’s knack for maintaining the theatrical edge while simultaneously conveying emotional wounds.

The acting is surprisingly solid all around. Even opposite such iconic film veterans as Spacek andKristofferson, relative newcomer Hunnam proves that he can hold his own as the ostensibly proud and muscular yet remorseful Jay. Williams is convincing in his role, though his character seems written as rather flat. Wilde takes an unusual and mildly impressive departure from her typical character. Rookie screenwriter Zach Dean is probably much to thank for the well-layered characters, and Shane Hurlbut’s camera work is absolutely lovely, though sometimes captures the excruciating violence in too direct and abrupt a way.

The entire film assumes a Western outlaw feel but with a melancholy and refreshingly contemporary twist in the frigid North. One should note that while Deadfall may feature a stark, wintry setting, it’s certainly not the best Christmas pick-me-up to get you through to the end of the semester.

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