Deadfall
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In 2010, movie lovers eagerly awaited the release of Oscar-winning German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s big Hollywood debut, The Tourist. Unfortunately, though, the film didn’t exactly live up to expectations. Now, another winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, The Counterfeiters director Stefan Ruzowitzky, makes his Hollywood debut—with only slightly better results.

After Liza (Olivia Wilde) pulls off her first casino heist with her brother, Addison (Eric Bana), the getaway goes horribly wrong. Their driver is killed, and Addison is forced to shoot a cop to keep from getting caught.

While the local police track a cop-killing fugitive, Addison and Liza decide to split up as they make their way to the Canadian border. Addison heads into the snow-covered woods of Northern Michigan, where he continues his killing spree. Liza, meanwhile, meets Jay (Charlie Hunnam), a boxer and ex-con who’s also trying to keep a low profile as he heads home for Thanksgiving.

  
 
Deadfall isn’t the big, flashy Hollywood production that The Tourist was. Instead, it’s a simpler, quieter film, set against a stark, wintery setting. These snow-covered forests aren’t calming and serene; they’re cold and treacherous, and they give the film a wild, ominous feel that’s reminiscent of the opening scenes of another Eric Bana movie, Joe Wright’s Hanna.

The story, meanwhile, is an intriguing one. On one hand, it’s a gritty thriller, with some surprisingly brutal, bloody action. On the other hand, it’s a romance between two troubled young fugitives. And woven into the action and drama, you’ll find all kinds of interesting (and occasionally disturbing) family dynamics in play—whether it’s Liza’s unhealthy relationship with her brother, Jay’s strained relationship with his dad (Kris Kristofferson), or the small-town deputy (Kate Mara) and her relationship with her boss/dad (Treat Williams). Granted, some of the characters are laughably overdone—especially the arrogant backwoods cops—and Kate Mara looks more like a little girl playing dress-up than a real, serious cop. But the plot takes some fascinating turns—and it all comes to a head in what could be the most unusual Thanksgiving dinner ever.

The problem, however, is in the execution; there’s just something about it that feels a little bit off. The story may be an interesting one, but the dialogue often feels unnatural, and the delivery feels clunky and awkward—as if first-time screenwriter Zach Dean weren’t entirely comfortable writing dialogue and Austrian director Ruzowitzky weren’t entirely comfortable directing it.

Deadfall isn’t a bad movie; it’s just not the kind of follow-up that you hope to see from an Oscar-winning director. So let’s just consider this interesting but inelegant thriller practice for Ruzowitzky’s next big film.

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