Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky; Screenwriter: Zach Dean; Starring: Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam; Running time: 95 mins; Certificate: 15
Snowbound thrillers have varied from the mesmerising Fargo to the monotonous Whiteout. It's the latter camp that Deadfall drifts into, as a hard-working cast spearheaded by Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde can't overcome an avalanche of unconvincing dialogue and poorly contrived scenarios.
The pair play fugitive siblings Addison and Liza, who go on the run after a botched casino heist. They're soon separated and the latter encounters Charlie Hunnam's jailbird boxer Jay, seducing him in order to get a ride - in more ways than one. Addison plods along to the border where he hopes to meet his sister, but Kate Mara's young law enforcer is soon on his trail, much to the chagrin of her Sheriff father (Treat Williams).
It all culminates in a series of painful coincidences that sees these sparring protagonists all sat at the same Thanksgiving dinner table with Jay's parents (Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson). They should've worn bibs, as mealtime quickly degenerates into a blood-splattered mess.
He also allows breathing space for the performances, which are all impressive - particularly the wild-eyed, feral Bana. The understated yet scintillating chemistry between Hunnam and Wilde also ramps up the intrigue, as Liza seeks to seduce stoic Jay for her own malevolent purposes.
These sterling turns are all squandered though, as the script bears a wealth of dialogue that is totally lacking in credence. Most of the time, characters talk as if they're sat in a confessional booth in church, outlining their turbulent backgrounds and current states of mind. "My father was a monster," blurts out Liza at one point, unprompted, in a clear case of the screenwriter desperately trying to add credible psychological motivations to proceedings.
In another example, a child whose father has just been shot by Addison asks him if they will be killed next. "No, you're a child - children should be protected," he responds, before embarking on a monologue about his troubled upbringing. The intentions may be noble, but the manner in which the characters verbally interact is thoroughly unsuccessful.
The nadir comes with Kate Mara's cop, who is defined simply by everyone around her being male, older, nasty, sexist and incompetent. There's an endless cycle of her doing sterling police work only to be castigated by a sneering colleague.
With a script that exposes its own mechanics and contrivances with such reckless abandon, Deadfall simply can't be prevented from flatlining by the solid ensemble cast and luscious visual palette.