There's that old expression that George W. Bush couldn't remember: fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. I feel like it applies to the movie Deadfall. Pitch me one rancid, far-fetched plot point and if I swing on it, it's on me. Fire them at me like balls in a batting cage, and eventually we've got a defective machine.
Deadfall is a defective film. It wants to be slick neo-noir, but never finds its footing. (For starters, it's all set in bright snow! Even the aesthetic codes are screwed up.) It tells the story of a criminal brother-and-sister team, dysfunctional father-daughter cops and a family reconciling with their violent, ex-con son. They all ultimately meet for, I swear, a Thanksgiving dinner ending in gunfire.
Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde robbed an Indian Casino, but they hit a deer in the getaway car. Emerging from a ditch Bana shoots a cop (who happened to be just around the corner in this North Michigan snowscape) and the two part company to find a way to the border. Bana finds a cabin in the woods where he shoots an abusive step father, Wilde finds Charlie Hunnam, just out of prison, but on the run because he accidentally killed the boxing promoter who screwed him on a deal or something. (Mental note: never shove a guy before checking there isn't something behind his head that can impale his skull. I can't count how many times I've seen this happen.)
A snowstorm means Hunnam and Wilde shack up in a bar/motel and allow some earnest rock ballad to play before they get funky. Anyway, all roads lead to Hunnam's parents' house. There, Sissy Spacek and Kris Kirsotfferson are preparing to accept their son back into the fold, but they sure weren't expecting all these criminals.
Hot on the trail is Kate Mara, the only cop on the force with a brain in her head, yet she's treated like dirt because she is an icky girl. (Yes, there are tampon jokes. Excuse me, "jokes.") Her father, Treat Williams, is the head of the force who wishes she were a boy and, luckily, this will all come to a head when everyone arrives for Thanksgiving dinner.
All of the performances are good enough to be unnoticeable with two exceptions. Kate Mara, hidden beneath a puffy coat, exudes sympathy. Even though the lines she has to deliver are of Guiding Light caliber, she's terrific. Olivia Wilde, on the other hand, is atrocious. Don't get me wrong, she's gorgeous, but it takes someone like Olivia Wilde to make you realize how good of an actress Milla Jovovich is. Much of the blame is on the director, who has her pelting voicemail messages at a pitch that doesn't match the rest of the film, but there's only so much you can do with someone with no talent.
Deadfall is the perfect movie to watch when someone next to you on the couch is on the phone. It is professionally done (the snowmobile chase is kinda fun) but woe be to anyone who devotes their full attention to it. I don't care how low your self-esteem is, there are better uses for your time. Play backgammon on your iPhone, for example. It keeps your wits sharp.
The final shoot out tries to be surprising (Bana put his coat on Mara, making her a target) but the only real surprise comes when you realize that "Deadfall" was directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, the German filmmaker whose remarkable wartime story The Counterfeiters won the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 2007. There is a long legacy of promising foreign directors coming the US and making a piece of garbage in English. Sadly, Ruzowitzky is now a part of this group.