An A-list cast fights a B-movie script and goes down hard in “Deadfall,” a wintry suspense melodrama that’s not quite awful enough to be any fun.
Well, there is the unintended comedy of hearing Eric Bana, playing a brilliant sociopathic criminal on the run in northern Michigan, drawl his lines with a Southern accent as thick as chicken gravy, while Olivia Wilde, as his sister, sounds like she just graduated from newscaster school. These two, Addison and Liza, have robbed a casino and are making a fast getaway when their car crashes near the Canadian border. There’s a blizzard coming on and Liza is wearing only a skimpy sequined dress, but her brother looks at her like he’d be happy to keep her warm.
OK, armed incestuous siblings unprepared for extreme weather — I’m watching. As written by first-time scripter Zach Dean and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky (he made the terrific 2007 WWII thriller “The Counterfeiters” and has further to fall), “Deadfall” proceeds to pile on additional characters, interrelationships, and expository dialogue until the audience’s suspension of disbelief caves in from all the weight.
There’s a young ex-con boxer named Jay (Charlie Hunnam), also on the run from the law, who hooks up with Liza for a passionate version of “Two for the Road: Subzero Edition.” Jay’s parents, waiting for him on their snowbound farm, are played by a glowering Kris Kristofferson and a perky Sissy Spacek; he’s obviously read the script and she’s pretending she hasn’t. Kate Mara (“We Are Marshall”) is the area’s lone lady cop, crudely treated by her fellow lawmen and her sheriff father (Treat Williams). You sort of wish Marge Gunderson from “Fargo” would wander in to give her a hand, but no such luck.
By the time Bana’s Addison kills a Native American mountain man (Tom Jackson), loses his pinky finger, and holes up in a remote cabin (with cell service!) protecting an abused mother (Sarah Hansen) and her young daughter (Teale Bishopric), “Deadfall” is teetering on the brink of complete absurdity. Would that it had the courage to go over the cliff. A rousing third-act snowmobile chase saves the film’s energy from flagging, but the best that can be said of the climax, a lengthy Thanksgiving dinner conducted at gunpoint, is that it gives the Norman Rockwell cliché of family togetherness a bloody twist.
The movie wants to be a snowy film noir — film blanc? film neige? — but Ruzowitzky doesn’t have the cynicism for it and the script doesn’t know when to shut up. At least Bana does what he can to juice up his hayseed dialogue. (To Liza, as the two split up in the woods: “Ah’m not yer brother anymore, not ’til I tell yuh . . . Yer muh little girl.”) Wilde is stuck with the harder job of simultaneously playing sexy, innocent, conniving, and heartsore, and the effort appears to give her a headache. “This is kind of like an old movie,” Liza says to Jay in one scene. Lady, don’t you wish.Ty Burr can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @tyburr.