Deadfall is a nifty little noir thriller that showcases solid acting and potent action, all within strikingly visualized winterscapes and interiors. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky (The Counterfeiters) gets that when you transplant noir from rain-slicked urban streets to lonely northern snowfields, the change of venue often adds a special frisson to this stylized genre. (Shane Hurlbut’s moody cinematography doesn’t hurt.) Dark and dirty doings leave particularly lurid stains in all that rural whiteness — isn’t white supposed to be the color of innocence? — while snowfall, heavy and silent, deliciously muffles betrayal that ends in murder.
Deadfall shares this cold climate with Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan but avoids that film’s ironic glee at the sight of greedy rubes going from bad to worse as they follow noir’s typically downhill trajectory. Ruzowitzky, in this old-fashioned hybrid of Western and noir, grants his characters room for respect, whether they’re rising above or sinking deeper into their existential deadfalls.
At the start, a lone car approaches along a snow-covered road bordered by dark forest, its golden headlights warming the blue-white dimness. Inside, three fugitives from a big casino heist — siblings Addison and Liza (Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde) and an expendable driver — are heated up over their successful getaway. Addison’s jazzed enough to wax nostalgic, recalling the old family farm back in Alabama: “What would home look like?” He should know that, in noir world, feeling safe and happy makes you an instant target. In shockingly short order, the gang’s out in the cold, and splashes of scarlet puddle pristine snow.