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Magnolia Home Entertainment // R // February 5, 2013
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 27, 2013 | E-mail the Author
If you somehow managed to miss the pull quote on the cover labeling Deadfall as a slice of neo-noir, you'd figure that out quickly enough. The film delivers a seductive femme fatale in a slinky dress, a
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backseat covered in bricks of $100 bills from an off-screen heist, and a well-meaning cop gunned down in cold blood, and the counter hasn't even ticked to the five minute mark yet.

Deadfall is basically about a small army of deeply damaged people colliding into one another on this side of the border in Northern Michigan. Addison (Eric Bana) and his kid sister (Olivia Wilde) made the big score they'd been dreaming of after knocking over a casino, racking up a body count along the way that has them making a mad dash toward Canada. While her brother skulks through the woods, trying desperately to escape the punishing cold and slaughtering damn near everyone who crosses his path, Liza sticks to the main roads. She hitches a ride with Jay (Charlie Hunnam), a disgraced boxer who's out of prison maybe an hour and a half before brutally attacking the bastard who screwed him over. Neither one of them realize just how much they have in common. Liza schemes with her brother to meet up at Jay's folks' place, a stone's throw from the border, and what was supposed to be a quiet Thanksgiving dinner turns into a blood-spattered hostage situation.

Everything about Deadfall feels so frustratingly artificial. It doesn't bother with characters so much as puzzle pieces waiting to snap into place. Just about every last player on the bill is either a frothing-at-the-mouth, raging, irredeemable asshole or quietly and stoicly keeps everyone at arm's length. I guess I'm meant to sympathize with the deputy played by Kate Mara -- she was just accepted to the FBI Academy, but her fellow smalltown officers keep cracking tampon jokes and won't let her see any action! -- but mostly that's because the movie's violently shaking me by the shoulders and barking at me what I'm supposed to feel.

Rather than the usual down-'n-dirty fistfights you'd expect to see a noirish drama, the first brawl has Eric Bana leaping twenty feet as if someone had dumped a few quarters into an '90s arcade game. Bana and
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Olivia Wilde adopt just about the most grating, inauthentic, ger-hyuk Southern accents I've ever suffered through. I like Charlie Hunnam well enough, but his cardboard performance here is so mannered that I can practically see a P.A. holding cue cards just off-screen. Deadfall assembles a cast of very familiar faces -- Bana, Wilde, Hunnam, Mara, Treat Williams, Kris Kristofferson, and Sissy Spacek -- but they're saddled with dialogue that can't help but sound overly scripted. Even worse, pretty much everyone in the bit parts around them sound as if they were cast from smalltown community theatres, so wildly unconvincing that it's impossible to escape into the film.

Deadfall is at its best during the less labored third act when several different families plow head-on into one another and are forced to deal with their dysfunctions. It's a neo-noir, so we're not talking about Dr. Phil here. This is when the film is at its most intense, it's where the relationships between all these characters begin to feel more genuine, and...well, this is the movie I think Deadfall really wanted to be all along, with the genre trappings just a marketable excuse to get there. Otherwise, though, Deadfall is uncomfortably artificial, uninvolving, and wholly unmemorable. A marginal rental on the outside. Rent It.

Deadfall is startlingly sharp and detailed on Blu-ray, boasting a wonderfully filmic texture and a very striking palette. Its colors alternate between biting cold -- a sprawling canvas of white -- and a faint, slightly warm, golden tint. A healthy bitrate helps stave off any issues with the AVC encode, and no edge enhancement, excessive noise reduction, or assorted manipulation ever get in the way either. The image struggles somewhat under lower light, although that tinge of softness and coarse, gritty grain feel very much in-step with a modestly budgeted neo-noir. Despite my many (many!) misgivings about Deadfall as a film, I'm not left with much to gripe about the way it looks in high-def.

The AVC encode for Deadfall spans both layers of this BD-50 disc, and this presentation preserves the film's theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1.

Somewhat surprisingly, Deadfall's lossless soundtrack is 16-bit rather than the meatier 24-bit that's generally standard on Blu-ray. Then again, anyone who's not staring at a bitrate meter would be unlikely to notice, judging by the impressive fidelity, the remarkable sense of atmosphere, and the low-frequency bite reinforcing the fistfights and gunplay. Though howling wind and a violent blizzard are the dominant forces in the surround channels, such moments as the overturning car that opens the film and a frantic snowmobile chase also take full advantage of the 5.1 setup. The film's dialogue is reproduced
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cleanly, not marred by the slightest flicker of distortion, and it never struggles for placement in the mix. A very strong showing.

No dubs, alternate mixes, or audio commentaries. Subtitles are limited to English (SDH) and Spanish.

  • Featurettes (11 min.; HD): "Snow and Western" breezes through the grueling but gorgeous weather, and afterwards it's mentioned how the film is essentially a Western with snow taking the place of desert sand. "AXS TV: A Look at Deadfall" is more or less the trailer with some promotional interviews gingerly interspersed throughout.

  • Interviews (21 min.; HD): Deadfall also features four interviews. Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde speak about what drew them to these roles, various character dynamics,. and the operatic Thanksgiving sequence that closes out the film. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky appears in two separate interviews, and there is a fair amount of overlap between them. Both conversations explore the characters and casting, including the allure of playing a villain. The first interview on the set touches on Ruzowitzky's interest in storyboarding, and the second delves more deeply into a couple of standout sequences.

  • Behind the Scenes Footage (8 min.; HD): Eight minutes of fly-on-the-wall footage snapped throughout production.

  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): Last to bat is a high-def trailer.

Deadfall is also available in a DVD combo pack, but the release reviewed here just features the Blu-ray disc.

The Final Word
Deadfall emphasizes plot over character, and maybe the movie could've pulled that off if the way all these walking puzzle pieces fit together were even a little bit engaging. Instead, it's an uninspired. aggressively mediocre take on neo-noir that squanders a largely talented cast. Not recommended. Rent It.
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