There are probably worse fates for a terrific actor like Eric Bana than sub-DTV dreck like the new thriller Deadfall. But who would want to imagine them? Few outside Australia would guess, but Bana is one of those who graduated from a career in TV comedy into movies. After years as an excitable cutup–on programs such as The Eric Bana Show–he was approached by director Andrew Dominik (late of Killing Them Softly), who thought he’d make a great Chopper Read, the infamous Aussie criminal and prisoner. His performance in Chopper, wherein he shifts on a dime between hyperviolent and hyper-gregarious–apologizing, say, to the man he’s just shivved–is the stuff of legend.
It was inevitable that Hollywood would snatch him up. Why it was as Bruce Banner in Hulk, a man completely stuck inside himself before becoming a cartoon, is one of life’s better mysteries. Bana has been trapped in brooding, underarticulate roles for ages; only Judd Apatow, in Funny People, has recognized what a funny fuck he can be. For what it’s worth, Deadfall is likely the closest Bana has come to another Chopper Read. As a master crook who, along with his sister/accomplice (Olivia Wilde), has just ripped off a casino, only to be stuck in a small town mid-blizzard, he gets to go fearsomely beserk while cheerfully fucking around with the hostages he soon takes. It’s not much, but it’s something. Save Bana and Sissy Spacek, who dotes over him as he takes her hostage right before a Thanksgiving feast, Deadfall is otherwise a forgettable thumb-twiddler that quickly ruins any promise it initially had. Rather than try to make a clean getaway, Bana’s thug recklessly barrels through passersby and the law alike, all but ensuring a grisly end. Meanwhile, Wilde tries to con an ex-con (Charlie Hunnan), but maybe it’s love?
Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky is following up The Counterfeiters, which won the Foreign-Language Oscar and netted massive art house b.o. despite being grossly overrated. Previously he followed up the acclaimed (and also overrated) The Inheritors (1998) with All the Queen’s Men (2002), a cross-dressing WWII comedy with Matt Le Blanc. At this rate, his next film will be a hugely profitable comic book movie that everyone unaccountably likes.