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With December finally here and the awards season right around the corner, one can’t help but wonder what the motivation was to release Deadfall right in the thick of it. It certainly doesn’t deserve a place among the more coveted films to be released this month, instead feeling more like a standard throwaway thriller that should have been released in January or February, when studios dump whatever garbage they have sitting around into theaters just to get it out of their hands. To be fair, Deadfall isn’t terrible. It’s just terribly boring. With movies like Skyfall behind us and The Hobbit in front, there’s no real reason to see this. Just wait the extra week until it inevitably vanishes from our collective memories.

Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) aren’t your typical siblings. They’re actually thieves who have just escaped from a casino heist gone wrong and are on their way to the Canadian border. However, when their driver crashes their car in an attempt to avoid a passing animal, they find themselves forced to make the trek on foot in a blizzard, splitting up and vowing to meet later. Eventually, Liza runs into Jay (Charlie Hunnam), a Silver medalist at the Beijing Olympics who has just been released from prison and is on his way to his parents (played by Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson) for Thanksgiving dinner. Liza and Jay start an innocent fling with each other, playing a game where they pretend to be together and go by different aliases, which puts a kink in Addison’s plan to reunite with his sister and cross the border, which Jay’s parents live very close to.

And, as expected, this leads to a final showdown at Jay’s household that plays out more like a whimper than a bang. Although it wouldn’t be right to spoil what happens, Deadfall is such a conventional thriller that all but those who are completely unfamiliar with the genre will be able to predict its sequence of events well before they actually happen. It plods along rather typically and banally; it’s not until that final sequence that the film manages to build up any excitement at all. When everyone converges on that house where Bana has taken the parents hostage and the game between Jay and Liza has blossomed into a full-fledged romance, everybody unaware of Liza’s true relationship to Addison, intrigue is built, but by then, it’s too little too late and it ends too abruptly, never allowing us to savor the feeling of watching certain characters get their comeuppance.

With such a boring, trite story, the least Deadfall could do was give us the pleasure of watching someone get what’s coming to them, but it instead favors wrapping up inconsequential side stories that were mostly uninteresting and laughable to begin with. The most egregious offender of this comes in the form of Hanna (Kate Mara), a police officer in this small, quiet town who has daddy issues revolving around sexism, blame and a lack of trust. Unfortunately for her, her dad is the Sheriff and she answers to him. It's a terrible an underdeveloped B-story and every exchange they have is forced to the point where I’m pretty sure the actors involved developed hemorrhoids. (When asked why she can’t go out and help in their investigation, he responds with a question about what she would do if something important came up. “What if you have to change your tampon?” he asks.)

Perhaps the only thing more bored than I was while watching Deadfall were the actors actually in it, most of whom seemed to be coasting by for a paycheck while they waited for their next big break, particularly Eric Bana, who has always been an underwhelming actor, even in critically lauded films like Munich. They all seem to put forth only the slightest bit of effort, as if they knew that pretty much nobody was going to watch their movie. If they somehow had that premonition, they’re likely to be right. Deadfall just doesn’t deserve our time. Put it out in the middle of February, when moviegoers have been numbed by at least a month of likely-to-be-bad films and perhaps it looks more appetizing, but now? We have plenty of better options.

Deadfall receives 2/5


Dolphin Tale

There’s nothing worse than a movie that starts off strong and then goes downhill. Such is the case with the new family film, Dolphin Tale. What begins as a decent story full of sweetness and sincerity devolves into an overcooked, manipulatively emotional tearjerker where the sweetness turns to cheese. Don’t be surprised if your attempt to hold back tears eventually turns into an attempt to hold back laughter.

Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) is a stubborn kid. His last year at school was less than stellar and he is now reluctantly taking summer classes. His father left his mother, Lorraine (Ashley Judd), a few years back and things haven’t been the same since. The closest person he has to a father figure is his cousin, Kyle (Austin Stowell), a swimmer hoping to one day make it to the Olympic games, but he’s about to head off to war. On his way to school one day, he finds a bottlenose dolphin washed up on shore, stuck in a crab trap. After a phone call, workers from the Clearwater Marine Hospital, led by Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.), come to pick her up. Because circulation had been cut off to her tail for so long, they are forced to amputate it, putting her life in peril. Sawyer, however, becomes attached to the dolphin, now named Winter, and will do anything to save her, which includes enlisting Dr. McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) to make a prosthetic tail for her so she can swim properly.

Dolphin Tale is based on a true story and, as such, it is inspiring. Winter, who plays herself in the movie, is nothing short of a miracle. A dolphin who loses its tail is destined to die, but thanks to a number of lucky coincidences, she is able to live. If she hadn’t washed up on shore in the precise spot she had, this story never would have been told. If she hadn’t met Sawyer, there would have been nobody passionate enough to put forth enough effort to keep her alive. If Kyle hadn’t gone off to war and come back injured, Sawyer never would have gotten the idea to make a prosthetic tail. It’s a miraculous thing that happened and the hard work that went into creating that tail for Winter snowballed into bigger and better things. The comfortable material created specifically for her is now used on injured soldiers in need of help. In the end, this movie isn’t necessarily about the dolphin. It’s about the effect the dolphin had on people.

For the first 45 minutes to an hour, Dolphin Tale gets this point across just fine in its own simple and pleasurable way, but then it seems lose faith in itself. Histrionic behavior begins to take over and discussions turn into overemotional speeches about being broken and not giving up. Before you know it, Kyle is back from the war and throwing a pity party for himself. At this same time, a convenient hurricane comes ripping through coastal Florida, destroying the hospital and putting Winter’s life in danger. Then, after the hurricane, a family from Atlanta drives down to see the dolphin and, wouldn’t you know it, the child is missing a leg. If the actual footage during the credits is any indication, physically handicapped people truly do connect with Winter and travel from all over the country to see her, but this movie plays it for all it’s worth. It stacks sadness upon sadness to the point where it becomes too much. Once Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff), Sawyer’s friend, began praying to her dead mother, I had run out of patience.

Now, Dolphin Tale is sweet and it will work for many people, but when you’ve watched enough movies, it gets easy to tell when one really earns its tears and when one is misleading you into thinking it has. This movie is clearly the latter and its orchestral score, as soothing as it is deceiving, doesn’t do anything to help. It embraces the many tropes this style of film has, including the character, played here by Kris Kristofferson, that is given literally nothing to do until becoming the Voice of Reason in the end, which is precisely what ends up killing it. Dolphin Tale doesn’t have its own voice and when it does, that voice is too choked up by its own over-the-top sentimentality.

Dolphin Tale receives 2/5